Nevada has hit a hot streak. After winning its last three games, the Pack will get a week off from playing during its second bye week of the season. Bye weeks are great for teams to be able to rest, and the extra week of preparation can be essential for a team — especially for Nevada.
The team is currently in first place in the Mountain West Conference West Division, and if the Pack wins the last three games of the season, it will represent the West in the MWC Championship game. With Nevada controlling its own destiny, it is important to preview each of the upcoming opponents.
AT AIR FORCE
Nevada will return to action in two weeks against a stout Air Force team. At 6-2, the Falcons have a great record, but their play on the field has been inconsistent this season. Air Force defeated Boise State in decisive fashion, by a score of 28-14, handing the Broncos their second loss of the season, the same Broncos team that handed the Pack a 51-46 defeat. However, the team also lost to a subpar Wyoming team 17-13. Wyoming is currently 4-5 and has lost four of its last five games.
The Wolf Pack will need to focus on stopping the Falcons’ potent run offense in order to win. Air Force is averaging 269.5 rushing yards a game, which is the 12th in the NCAA and is paced by sophomore Jacobi Owens, who has rushed for 853 yards and four touchdowns this season.
VS. FRESNO STATE
After traveling to Colorado, the Pack will head back to Mackay Stadium to host Fresno State, the defending MWC champion. This is not the same Bulldog team that went 12-2 and defeated Nevada 41-23 last year. Times have been tough for Fresno State, as it has fallen to 3-6 after having to replace quarterback Derek Carr, who is now playing for the Oakland Raiders.
Nevada will have to stop Fresno State’s passing game, which has been a problem for the Wolf Pack’s young secondary, having given up almost 300 passing yards a game. Nevada will have a tough matchup with senior wide receiver Josh Harper. After going over 1,000 receiving yards last season, Harper is on pace to do it again this season having 726 yards through nine games this year.
The Wolf Pack will head back on the road for its final game of the year as it travels 448.5 miles south to take on Nevada’s bitter rivals, the UNLV Rebels. This is the game that fans look forward to all year: the battle for the Fremont Cannon. Last season, the Rebels were able to take the cannon back with a 27-22 victory.
After going 7-6 and playing in the team’s first bowl since 2000, the Rebels have taken a major step back this season. UNLV is currently 2-7 and has lost five of its last six games. H o w e v e r , even though the team is struggling, the Rebels still have plenty of talent that will need to be accounted for , including Biletnikoff Award nominee wide receiver Devante Davis who, last season, caught 87 passes for over 1,200 yards. Though he has been limited this year by injuries, if he is able to stay healthy he will have a major impact on the game.
Even if the teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum, UNLV will be mot i v a t e d to try and ruin Nevada’s chance to make the MWC game. When it comes to rivalry games, a n y t h i n g can happen.
Stone Harper can be reached at email@example.com. and onTwitter @StoneHarperNVSB.