For Nevada fans, this season is one giant question mark. Will the program take a step back without Chris Ault at the helm? How is the tough road schedule going to affect the team? Can Nevada be a surprise team in the West division?
Each of these questions will be answered, when all is said and done, by the Wolf Pack's record. Here is my look at the best and worst case scenarios for Brian Polian's first year at Nevada.
BEST CASE SCENARIO:
Nevada is a team that can put up points in a hurry. If the defense can create timely turnovers in the new Tampa 2 scheme, Nevada can compete in most games on their schedule simply because they can outscore a team in a shootout. This is my game-by-game breakdown in the ideal season for the Wolf Pack.
@ UCLA (WIN). Nevada last year went on the road at a Pac-12 school, California, and won. While that California team is not as talented as this UCLA team, Nevada will not be intimidated. If Nevada does win this game it will have to be a shootout lead by both team's quarterbacks, Cody Fajardo and Brett Hundley.
Vs. UC Davis (WIN). The teams home opener against UC Davis should not be close, even if the Aggies are at their best.
@ Florida State (LOSS). Florida State simply has better athletes and more talent. Nevada's defense will experience some growing pains in Tallahassee while still trying to polish up the installation of the Tampa 2 defense.
Vs. Hawaii (WIN). Still a year or two away from competing in the Mountain West under Norm Chow, the Warriors will come into Reno as the underdog. Hawaii should keep the game close, but Nevada should pull away late.
Vs. Air Force (WIN). The triple option gave Nevada fits last year as the Falcons absolutely dominated the Wolf Pack. This year with the inexperience Air Force has, Nevada should be able to win at home.
@San Diego State (WIN). This may be a little of a stretch, but now is the time to remind you that this is the very best case scenario for Nevada. While SDSU will more than likely be the favorite going into this game, Nevada can put up points in a hurry. San Diego State's strength will be their run game, but if Nevada can jump out to an early lead and force the Aztecs and Adam Dingwell to throw the ball, look for an upset for Nevada.
@ Boise State (LOSS). Yes, Nevada and Boise always seem to play close games no matter how favored the Broncos enter the game, but this year, even with the bye, Nevada will have a hard time keeping the game close. The Boise defensive front will be too much for the Nevada offensive line to handle.
Vs. UNLV (WIN). The Fremont cannon stays blue for the ninth straight year. Sorry Rebel fans.
@ Fresno State (LOSS). Even in the best-case scenario, Nevada will struggle with the Derek Carr to Davante Adams combo. This game, if Nevada cannot scheme for Adams, could become ugly early, especially if the secondary struggles as much as last year.
@ Colorado State (WIN). On the road it could be a tough game against an underrated CSU team, but I still see Nevada getting the win.
Vs. San Jose State (WIN). This game, if everything happens the way it should (which it won't), will determine who finishes the third in the West Division. I give the Wolf Pack a nod simply because the game is at Mackay Stadium.
Vs. BYU (LOSS). This game, in the best-case scenario, is interchangeable with the San Diego State game. Nevada will win one of those two.
Overall, an 8-4 record would be a huge accomplishment for Brian Polian. This would likely be good for third or even possibly second in the West division. With the difficult road schedule, 8-4 is not very likely to happen.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
@ UCLA (LOSS). The glitz and glam of the Rose Bowl gets to the players and they are not ready come kick off. Nevada struggles to move the ball and gets blow out.
Vs. UC Davis (WIN). If Nevada loses this game, look out because this year could become rough quick.
@ Florida State (LOSS). Nevada gets embarrassed and loses confidence heading into the conference games and never truly recovers.
Vs. Hawaii (LOSS). If Hawaii jumps on Nevada early they could get out to a big lead behind quarterback Taylor Graham. Even if that is the case, Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack offense should be able to put up enough points on the board to beat the Warriors.
Vs. Air Force (LOSS). Nevada's defense could not figure out the triple option last year and it cannot this year either. If Nevada struggles on the offense side of the ball, and the defense doesn't have an answer for the triple option, Air Force could easily pull the upset.
@San Diego State (LOSS). Adam Muema, the SDSU running back, is one of the most underrated players in the MWC and could find success against the Nevada run defense. Additionally, Adam Dingwell had one of his best games last year against the Wolf Pack.
@Boise State (LOSS). Coming off a bye week Nevada fans will have high hopes for what could be a big upset. If Nevada struggles early in the season this game would provide a feel good moment if they got the win. Even so, a Nevada win is highly unlikely.
Vs. UNLV (WIN). If this game turned out to be a loss, it might be the tipping point where it goes from a bad season to maybe the worst season in recent memory. A loss to "Nevada Southern" would be horrendous for Nevada.
@Fresno State (LOSS). Carr to Adams. Get familiar with this combo.
@Colorado State (WIN). Colorado State is capable of getting the win, especially since they play at home. But Nevada will be playing for pride at this point and Fajardo is too talented of a quarterback for the team to be this poor.
Vs. San Jose State (Loss). David Fales, a former Nevada quarterback behind Colin Kaepernick, comes back to Mackey Stadium with a vengeance and shreds up the Wolf Pack. The secondary does not come to play and the future NFL quarterback beats his old team.
Vs. BYU (WIN). With nothing left to play for if the season does play out this poorly, Nevada shows up in their last game of the year to attempt to salvage any good memories from the 2013 season.
In this worst case scenario Nevada goes 4-8 and does not reach a bowl game. The take away from both of the scenarios is that Nevada's record will likely be somewhere in between the two extremes. A 6-6 record with a bowl game appearance, with how tough both the non-conference and road schedules are, would be a success for Nevada.
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