LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 02: Nevada Reno Wolf Pack head coach Chris Ault (C) is flanked by quarterbacks Tyler Lantrip #16 and Mason Magleby #13 as Ault watches his players take on the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium October 2 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. Nevada Reno won 44-26. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Future MWC member Nevada will be taking on Conference USA champ Southern Miss in Honolulu today, and I thought I'd post a few quick pregame thoughts. After upsetting Houston in the Conference USA championship game, the reward for the Golden Eagles was a 21/22 ranking and a trip to Hawaii to take on the 7-5 (5-2) Wolf Pack. Perhaps not the marquee matchup a 21 ranked team is looking for, but who can turn down a trip to Hawaii. The teams will square off today at 5 pm PST. The two teams will soon be alliance mates once the MWC/CUSA merger goes through, so it might not be the last time the two teams meet in the near future. This game should give the next one a little more meaning when/if it happens.
For the Golden Eagles the biggest story line heading into this game involves their head coach. Head coach Larry Fedora recently accepted an offer to be the next head coach for the North Carolina Tar Heels. He is, however, sticking around to coach his squad in the Hawaii bowl. Southern Miss has already found themselves a replacement for Fedora in Ellis Johnson, who has served as the defensive coordinator and assistant coach under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina for the past four years. With the 11-2 record this season, Southern Miss has posted a winning record in each of the past 18 seasons, a record only behind Florida, Florida State, and Virginia Tech.
For the Wolf Pack this season has been a bit of a let down, especially after such a successful season a year ago. After some early season struggles including blowing a chance to take down Texas Tech, Nevada looked poised to run the table in conference play and finish out their tenure in the WAC with a conference title. Unfortunately this ended up not being the case. After dominating La Tech for three and a half quarters, the Wolf Pack again failed to finish and let the Bulldogs make a last second come back to take the game. The following week Nevada again looked like the better team against Utah State only to let the Aggies mount a comeback to steal a victory late in the game. While today's match-up is a little on the lighter side for Southern Miss, it gives Nevada a tough opponent and a chance to redeem themselves by upsetting a ranked team in their bowl after a disappointing regular season.
Also treat this as your open thread to discuss this game tonight.