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A breakdown of Nevada’s 2020 schedule

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NCAA Football: UNLV at Nevada David Calvert-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, the Nevada Wolf Pack 2020 schedule was announced.

Check out the full schedule below:

Nevada Football 2020 Schedule

Date Opponent Time TV 2019 Final FPI Rankings 2020 Preseason FPI Rankings
Date Opponent Time TV 2019 Final FPI Rankings 2020 Preseason FPI Rankings
August 29 vs. UC Davis TBD TBD --------- ---------
September 5 at Arkansas TBD TBD 93 66
September 12 vs. UTEP TBD TBD 128 129
September 19 at South Florida TBD TBD 95 86
September 26 vs. San Diego State TBD TBD 71 88
October 3 at Hawai'i TBD TBD 79 119
October 10 BYE --------- --------- --------- ---------
October 17 at New Mexico TBD TBD 121 124
October 24 vs. Fresno State TBD TBD 81 93
October 31 vs. Utah State TBD TBD 73 85
November 7 at San Jose State TBD TBD 103 108
November 14 vs. Wyoming TBD TBD 68 77
November 21 BYE --------- --------- --------- ---------
November 28 at UNLV TBD TBD 116 117

With the spring football season right around the corner, and with not much to write about, I have decided to give a short outlook of each of Nevada’s opponents for the 2020 season. So lets get into it!

Non-Conference Games:

UC Davis Aggies:

2019 record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Sky)

Matchup History: Nevada leads 29-21-3

Outlook:

UC Davis had an underwhelming 2019 season after a preseason projection to finish Top-2 in the Big Sky Conference. The Aggies head into 2020 with an uncertainty at quarterback spot after three-year starter and the program’s all-time leading passer Jake Maier graduated. Five quarterbacks were throwing in spring camp with no clear favorite. Their top running back Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. returns for his junior season after leading the Big Sky in rushing yards (1,249) and placing sixth in rushing touchdowns (11). There is some continuity defensively as Nick Eaton, Bryce Rodgers and Devon King look to replicate their All-Big Sky seasons. Two years removed from hosting its first ever FCS playoff game, the Aggies look to get back to that mark in 2020 after a disappointing 2019.

Arkansas Razorbacks:

2019 record: 2-10 (0-8 SEC)

Matchup History: First ever meeting

Outlook:

The Razorbacks are the second SEC team in the last three years that Nevada will face — both coming on the road. Arkansas completely revamped its team over the offseason, beginning with hiring former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman as its head coach. He replaced Chad Morris, who failed to win an SEC game in two seasons as head coach. Florida transfer Feleipe Franks headlines the new faces with this Razorback program, who appeared in just four games last season after season-ending ankle surgery. Running back Rakeem Boyd, arguably the Razorbacks’ most important offensive piece, looks to potentially lead Arkansas once again in 2020 in hopes for a bowl bid.

UTEP Miners:

2019 record: 1-11 (0-8 CUSA)

Matchup History: Nevada leads 3-1

Outlook:

It has not been smooth sailing for UTEP football, going a combined 2-34 (.056) over its last three seasons. The Miners had one of the worst offenses in college football last season. They ranked No. 119 nationally in scoring (19.6 ppg) and No. 116 in yards per game (329.2 ypg). UTEP loses both of its quarterbacks it used in its two-QB system and their leading rusher Treyvon Hughes. For the Miners to start winning games, it’s imperative for the Miners to improve on the defensive side of the ball after ranking No. 119 in the nation in scoring defense (35.9 ppg). UTEP could not get into the opponent’s backfield, ranking dead last nationally in tackles-for-loss (39.0) and third-worst in sacks (12.0).

South Florida Bulls:

2019 record: 4-8 (2-6 AAC)

Matchup History: USF leads 1-0

Outlook:

New head coach Jeff Scott, previously the co-offensive coordinator at Clemson (2015-19), is entering his first season with USF after the program fired Charlie Strong last December. Strong, who spent three seasons at USF, went 10-2 in his first season with the Bulls. The program declined to 7-6 in 2018 and 4-8 last year, leading to his departure. USF was bad offensively last season, ranking No. 115 nationally in scoring (20.8 ppg). USF was okay defensively, ranking No. 70 in total defense (398.1 ypg) and No. 75 scoring defense (28.9 ppg). Scott said at the beginning of camp that each position is up for grabs, including the quarterback spot which brings in North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin. Scott’s culture change looks to get USF back under par and potentially its fifth bowl appearance in six years.

Conference Games:

San Diego State Aztecs:

2019 record: 10-3 (5-3 MWC)

Matchup History: SDSU leads 7-5

Outlook:

Head coach Rocky Long retired at the end of last season. Well, that didn’t actually happen in the end. He originally retired, but came back and was hired as the defensive coordinator at New Mexico. Brady Hoke replaces Long as the new head man for his second head coaching stint with the Aztecs. Hoke loses last year’s quarterback Ryan Agnew (graduation), so there is some uncertainty behind center. Carson Baker is seemed to be favorite in the quarterback spot given his previous experience, but nothing is official with it being so early. SDSU’s run game experienced its lowest rushing total (141.3 ypg) since 2009 after Juwan Washington — the Aztecs’ leading rusher last season — was held to just nine games due to an ankle injury. Jordan Byrd, Chase Jasmin and Chance Bell all look to replace that production. If the trio plus the offensive line — which also sustained its level of injuries last year — can stay healthy, then the potent SDSU rushing attack should return to a high level. The Aztecs, who sported the No. 16 defense last season, also losing key defenders Myles Cheatum and Kyahva Tezino. They should still be a formidable defensive group — arguably the best in the conference — heading into 2020.

Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors:

2019 record: 10-5 (5-4 MWC)

Matchup History: Nevada leads 13-10

Outlook:

Hawai’i loses head coach Nick Rolovich — who is replacing Mike Leach at Washington State — along with second-team All-Mountain West quarterback Cole McDonald. The run-and-shoot offense employed by Rolovich produced the 13th-most yards per game (471.0), 24th-most points (33.9 ppg) and the 11th-most touchdowns (68) nationally. With McDonald declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, Chevan Cordeiro is likely to secure the starting quarterback job heading into fall. Two All-Mountain West receivers, Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward, graduate along with Jason Matthew-Sharsh. They return all five offensive lineman and retain tailback Miles Reed, who finished top-10 in the conference in rushing yards (908), rushing touchdowns (8) and yards per carry (5.2) last season. New head coach Todd Graham has made 10 bowls in 12 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He hopes to get back to that point with Cordeiro & Reed at the helm in 2020.

New Mexico Lobos:

2019 record: 2-10 (0-8 MWC)

Matchup History: Nevada leads 4-3-1

Outlook:

New Mexico went 8-28 (.222) in Bob Davie’s final three seasons with the program. New head coach Danny Gonzales hopes to change that at his alumnus. He reunites with new Lobos defensive coordinator Rocky Long, who was previously San Diego State’s head coach (2011-19). Long returns to the Lobos for the first time since holding the head coaching job from 1998-2008. An eye-opening struggle New Mexico possessed was on the defensive side of the ball. Long will use his 3-3-5 base defense to revamp a Lobo defense that ranked second-worst in the nation in total defense (485.7 ypg) and sixth-worst in opponents scoring (37.2 ppg). On the offensive side, New Mexico loses its top offensive threat in Ahmari Davis (graduation) but retains its starting quarterback Tevaka Tuioti from a year ago. Overall, New Mexico has not had much success since Long left in 2008. With Gonzales and Long back on the sidelines in Albuquerque (yes, in different roles, but they’re back nevertheless), New Mexico seeks its first bowl appearance since 2016.

Fresno State Bulldogs:

2019 record: 4-8 (2-6 MWC)

Matchup History: Fresno State leads 28-16

Outlook:

Kalen DeBoer returns to Fresno State for his first season as head coach, replacing former colleague Jeff Tedford. DeBoer was the offensive coordinator for the Bulldogs in 2017 and 2018 before leaving for Indiana in the same role in 2019. DeBoer inherits an offense that will undergo a change under center for the second consecutive season. The Bulldogs bring back second-team All-Mountain West honoree Ronnie Rivers. Despite a very unhealthy and inconsistent offensive line, Rivers still led the conference in total touchdowns (16) and was seventh in rushing yards (899). In 2019, they tallied 4.6 fewer points and 35.8 fewer yards per game than when DeBoer was coordinator in 2018. He will surely look to rejuvenate the Bulldog offense and hopefully get Fresno State back to a double-digit win program in 2020. The Bulldogs lose a couple of strong defensive pieces in Mykal Walker and Juju Hughes, but still look to be a formidable unit this upcoming season.

Utah State Aggies:

2019 record: 7-6 (6-2 MWC)

Matchup History: Nevada leads 13-7

Outlook:

In his first season back at Utah State since 2012, head coach Gary Anderson led the Aggies to their eighth bowl appearance in nine seasons. The Aggies lose two vital offensive pieces heading into 2020 in quarterback Jordan Love — a projected first round pick in the NFL Draft — and top running back Gerald Bright (graduation). They also lose All-American linebacker David Woodward to the draft. That’s three key components with big shoes to fill. Without Love and Bright, it will be tough to replicate the offensive production they had last season — ranking No. 43 in total offense (431.3 ypg) and No. 63 in scoring offense (29.2 ppg). Quarterback Henry Colombi and running back Jaylen Warren, given they earn the starting jobs, are capable of producing at a solid level. Utah State also returns Savon Scarver, one of the best returners in the country. The Aggies feature their second-best recruiting class (according to their average class rating of .807) since 2015 per 247Sports. Utah State should boast another talented squad and could be on its way to make fourth consecutive bowl game.

San Jose State Spartans:

2019 record: 5-7 (2-6 MWC)

Matchup History: Nevada leads 21-9-1

Outlook:

The Spartans are coming off their best season since 2015. After going 3-22 (.120) in his first two seasons, head coach Brett Brennan gave the program just its third 5-plus win season since joining the Mountain West prior to the 2013 season. SJSU loses reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year and All-Mountain West first-team quarterback Josh Love (graduation). The Spartans also lost top rusher DeJon Packer (graduation), who finished third in the conference in total touchdowns (12). To improve on the levels of success that SJSU had last season, which has not happened a lot in recent memory, SJSU has to find success from key position players — especially the quarterback position. It’s never easy replacing All-Mountain West production, but if they want to crack bowl territory, continuing to get good quarterback play will lead them in the right direction.

Wyoming Cowboys:

2019 record: 8-5 (4-4 MWC)

Matchup History: Wyoming leads 5-3

Outlook:

The ground-and-pound duo of quarterback Sean Chambers and running back Xazavian Valladay propelled Wyoming to its third 8-win season in four years. Both make their return to the 2020 team. Valladay, earning All-Mountain West first-team honors, led the conference in rushing yards (1,265) and yards from scrimmage (1,476) with eight total scores. Chambers, despite being a quarterback, did most of his damage in the run game. He finished T-12 among quarterbacks in the nation among quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns with 10 — 5th-most among any position player in the conference. He also led the conference in yards per carry (6.3). Keep in mind that loss of yardage for sacks counts in the college game — unlike in the NFL — so that mark is very impressive. The Cowboys lose four All-Mountain West players defensively — including two first-team members in Logan Wilson and Alijah Halliburton — so the 43rd-ranked defense will take a sizable hit. But with a talented set of recruits and the always advantageous altitude advantage, head coach Craig Bohl could very well be on his way to a fourth bowl appearance in his seventh season with the program.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels:

2019 record: 4-8 (2-6 MWC)

Matchup History: Nevada leads 26-19

Outlook:

It’s been a rough stretch from the Runnin’ Rebels. The program has tallied just three 6-win seasons 2000 and only two bowl appearances in that same stretch. Tony Sanchez totaled a 20-40 (.333), failing to reach .500 in any of his five seasons. Marcus Arroyo, previously Oregon’s offensive coordinator (2017-19), enters as UNLV’s new head coach. Arroyo is making an impact right away, bringing in the second-best recruiting class in the conference. UNLV returns both of its quarterbacks and All-Mountain West first-team running back Charles Williams. With Arroyo entering the building, UNLV has the potential to become a high-powered offense next year and in the future. The program loses three All-Mountain West defensive players, but I still expect UNLV to make a run at a bowl bid after another disappointing season next year.

My thoughts:

I know it might be too early to get a good gauge on how this Wolf Pack team will do this year. A lot can happen between now and Aug. 29. On paper, as of right now, this is a very manageable schedule for Nevada. With two not very competitive teams during their non-conference schedule (which won’t better their attendance woes), the Pack should muster up two victories there. Arkansas and USF are both winnable for the game for the Pack, even though playing in those environments has never been easy for Nevada. Nevada’s conference road schedule (Hawai’i, New Mexico, San Jose State and UNLV) isn’t as grueling as its home slate (SDSU, Fresno State, Utah State and Wyoming). If Nevada can potentially earn three conference wins on the road with two at home, that puts them at 5-3 in conference play and almost certain for a bowl bid.

Way-too-early regular season prediction: 7-5