It's the battle for the biggest traveling trophy in college sports, the Fremont Cannon. The annual game between the Rebels and the Wolf Pack has not been close in recent meetings with Nevada winning eight straight years. That streak is a source of pride in Reno and disappointment in Las Vegas. This year seems to pit two evenly matched teams, who play similar styles of football. Quarterbacks for both teams have been productive with go to wide receivers, and terrible run defenses AND pass defenses that when tested have struggled.
Lets do a little football math.
Star quarterbacks (Cody Fajardo & Caleb Herring) + Talented receivers (Brandon Wimberly & Devante Davis) + Productive running games (Tim Cornett & Kendall Brock) - Ability to tackle - Pass Rush = High Scoring Game.
If I can tell you one thing about this game, it will be high scoring. Punters may only see the field once or twice. One defensive stop could win the game either way.
What follows are the three key matchups for Battle for the Freemont Cannon.
Cody Fajardo vs. Caleb Herring
Lets talk about their similarities. Both rarely turn the ball over (one interception between the two on the year). Both have been extremely accurate on the year (over 68% completion). Both have the ability to run and avoid the rush. Both will be facing weak defenses that they can take advantage of. Now the differences. Herring came into the year as a backup, and took advantage of the Nick Sherry benching. Fajardo has been a consistent starter over his two and a half years at Nevada. Herring has played in this game prior to this weekend (2010). For Fajardo it will be his first time playing in the game, due to injuries in previous years.
These quarterbacks will likely be dueling all night and Nevada has the advantage at the position, but if Herring can keep it close, the game will be close.
UNLV Linebackers vs. Nevada Linebackers
This might legitimately be a battle of which team can struggle the least. Who cannot mess up the most. The Rebels have struggled mightily in run defense, allowing totals 397 and 497 yards on the year to Arizona and New Mexico. Both are respectable rush teams, but those amounts of yards are inexcusable. If Nevada's running backs Kendall Brock, Chris Solomon, and Don Jackson can take advantage and provide effective balance to the Wolf Pack offense, Nevada will be hard to stop.
For the Rebels, the programs all time leading rusher Tim Cornett is doubtful for the game, but if he does play he could run all over Jordan Dobrich and the Nevada linebackers. The Wolf Pack seem to always allow long runs in the third quarter of games, and if UNLV can follow that trend, it will signal good news for the Rebs.
Coach Brian Polian vs. Coach Bobby Hauck
The coaching battle could be one of the most important matchups in the entire game. Coach Hauck is currently coaching for his UNLV career due to his struggles so far at the school. This year has been Hauck's best year with the Rebels and comes into the game with a 4-3 record. If he can get the first win over the instate rival in 8 years, Hauck's job might be safe. For Nevada, coach Polian is coaching for his pride. The Wolf Pack has been great in the first half of games, but has completely fallen apart in the third quarter. It's now a trend and a trend that needs to be stopped. Polian also has the ability to impact the game with gutsy special teams calls, like fake punts and field goals, but also with his unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from riding the refs too hard. The winner of this matchup could make a huge impact in the game as a whole.
It's a rivalry game so anything could happen. I'm predicting a high scoring game, but maybe the defenses step up in the big game? Doubt it though. Nevada, because of Cody Fajardo, will keep the Fremont Cannon for the ninth straight year.
Nevada 41 UNLV 31
Finally a few uniform game notes:
Both teams will be wearing their home uniforms.
Also, both teams will be wearing a helmet decal to honor Sparks Middle School after the horrific shooting that occurred at the school on Monday.