The Nevada Wolf Pack went 7-2 in its shortened 2020 college football season, polished off with a 38-27 victory over the Tulane Green Wave in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22. The double-digit victory featured head coach Jay Norvell getting showered with French fries and Gatorade. It was Nevada’s second bowl victory in three seasons.
A french fry bath followed by a Gatorade bath to wash it down with followed by a 15-yard penalty because the game wasn't over.— Jim Weber (@JimMWeber) December 22, 2020
What a friggin' sport... pic.twitter.com/cFrjJP2GrN
The Mountain West football season, that nearly didn’t happen after getting postponed on Aug. 10, resumed on Oct. 24 with an eight-game conference-only regular season schedule. This eliminated Nevada’s opportunity to play non-conference road games against South Florida and Arkansas, along with home bouts against Weber State and UTEP. In the end, the Pack joined Hawai’i as one of two Mountain West programs who played all eight of its scheduled regular season games.
The Pack were one of eight teams in program history — the first since 2010 when they went 13-1 — to begin the season with five straight regular season wins. Nevada split the latter four contests of the year with losses to Hawai’i and San Jose State, who went a perfect 7-0 in the regular season.
Barring these unforeseen circumstances with COVID-19 carrying through summer into fall, Nevada is set to play a full 12-game schedule. Let’s take a look at the 2021 schedule and beyond.
***dates are subject to change
Sept. 4: California Golden Bears (Road):
The Golden Bears played in just four games in 2020 due to back-to-back COVID-19 cancellations to begin, and promptly end their season. Cal’s lone win came in its final contest in a 21-17 upset over No. 21 Oregon. Its final two losses came by a combined five points. Though it struggled to manufacture wins in the COVID-19 shortened season, the Golden Bears went 20-18 with two bowl appearances in 2018 and 2019 in the first three seasons under head coach Justin Wilcox. Barring a schedule change, this will be a good opening test for this experienced Wolf Pack squad.
Sept. 11: Idaho State Bengals (Home):
Idaho State, a member of the Big Sky Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision, has not had their season yet due to the leaguewide postponement across the FCS. Its six-game conference-only spring schedule kicks off on Feb. 27 against rival Weber State, who it will play twice. In 2019, the Wildcats finished 3-9 with a 2-6 conference record. In the last five seasons, they have had just one winning season (2018) — compiling a 16-37 (.302) overall record with a 12-31 (.279) Big Sky record over that span.
Sept. 18: Kansas State Wildcats (Road):
Kansas State is Nevada’s only non-conference opponent that played at least four games in 2020. Kansas State, who finished 4-6 in the truncated season, lost its only non-conference showdown to Arkansas State in the season-opener, 35-31. It rattled off four straight victories but ended the season on a five-game skid that included ugly losses to West Virginia (37-10), then No. 17-ranked Iowa State (45-0) and Texas (69-31). Kansas State will get the return of quarterback Skylar Thompson, who suffered a season-ending upper body injury against Texas Tech in the team’s third game.
Oct. 9: New Mexico State Aggies (Home):
Nevada last faced New Mexico State in 2011, the Pack’s final season in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The Pack won the game 48-34 and are 13-2 all-time against the Aggies. After the conference eliminated football after the 2012 season (although it was reinstated earlier this month to begin again in 2022!), New Mexico State became an independent in 2013 followed by a four-year stay in the Sun Belt Conference (2014-17). Its second stint as an independent began in 2018. Moreover, New Mexico State was one of three FBS programs to not play in the 2020. Like Idaho State, it will play in the spring of 2021. The Aggies’ truncated three-game schedule begins on Feb. 20 versus Tarleton State.
2021 Mountain West Schedule:
- San Jose State
- Air Force
This is a manageable slate for the Wolf Pack to handle, although their only two losses in 2020 came against San Jose State and Hawai’i. UNLV went wineless in six games. Air Force went 3-3, with its three wins coming to teams with a combined six victories. San Jose State will undoubtedly be a Mountain West Title favorite after its unexpected, yet spotless 7-0 regular season record. Hawai’i finished above .500 for the third consecutive season and will look to do so again in 2021.
- Fresno State
- San Diego State
- Boise State
- Colorado State
The Wolf Pack had UNLV and Hawai’i as true road games in 2020, while playing New Mexico and San Jose State at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. — two “road” games that were played in neutral sites. Nevada departed the Silver State just twice in 2020: against Hawai’i in Honolulu and Tulane for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Barring anything drastic, on paper, 2021 demonstrates a more challenging road slate. Boise State and San Diego State had down seasons, but are still very good programs. Though 2020 did bring a sour ending, Fresno State is on its way up. Colorado State, who only played four games due to being bit by four COVID-19 game cancellations, is the most beatable team on this slate.
Per the Nevada Athletics site, Nevada has all of its its non-conference and conference opponents finalized (at the time of publishing) through the 2022 season. Its non-conference schedule consists of three FCS opponents and Iowa out the Big Ten. None of Nevada’s Mountain West opponents have been finalized for season’s 2023 and beyond. For years 2023-26, the Pack have five out-of-conference opponents scheduled: three in 2023; one in 2024; and one in 2026 (sorry, 2025).
Aug. 27: New Mexico State (Road)
Sept. 3: Texas State (Home)
Sept. 10: Incarnate Word (Home)
Sept. 17: Iowa (Road)
Mountain West Games:
Home: Fresno State, San Diego State, Boise State, Colorado State
Road: Hawaii, San Jose State, UNLV, Air Force.
Sept. 2: USC (Road)
Sept. 9: Idaho (home)
Sept. 16: Texas State (road)
Sept. 14: Minnesota (road)
Sept. 19: UCLA (road)