Wolf Pack linebacker Lucas Weber charges at two Nevada offensive linemen. Weber, wearing a dark blue jersey, goes against two linemen in off-pink jerseys.
Image courtesy of Nevada Athletics. No. 24 Nevada linebacker Lucas Weber rushes No. 71 Jake Nelson and No. 72 Miles Beach during Nevada football’s fall camp. Weber, a native of Reno, Nev., finished last season with 56 total tackles.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are those of the writer. They do not necessarily reflect the entire paper or the sports section. 

Nevada football has a much anticipated season in front of them. After coming off a win in the Arizona Bowl a season ago, expectations are growing. How high is the ceiling for Nevada football? The sports section of The Nevada Sagebrush debates this very topic and tries to predict the teams overall record at seasons end. 

Ryan: 8-4

The Wolf Pack are tested immediately out of the gate versus Purdue and in Oregon. With Strong leading Nevada out of the gate, they have a chance at taking the home victory but playing in Oregon is a tall order. Fortunately for Nevada, their next two games after this are winnable with matchups against Weber St. and UTEP. 

After this is where things get tricky. Head coach Jay Norvell has stated that Solano should be ready to go by conference play. However, if Strong has led the Pack to a 3-1 record at this point, it would be hard to bench the hot hand. It’s anyone’s guess what happens when Solano gets healthy. 

Nevada opens conference play against Hawai’i, followed by San Jose St. Both of these MWC games should end in Wolf Pack victories. However, the following two games are no pushovers as the Pack head on the road for a doubleheader versus Utah State and Wyoming.

Utah State has one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation leading them in Jordan Love. Whereas Wyoming, had one of the best all-around defenses last year, giving up only 22 points per game on average. They’ll look to be an improved unit this season under returning linebacker Logan Wilson, who led the team in tackles with 99. Under Wilson, Wyoming climbed up to the No. 19 overall defense in the country a season ago. After a tough two-game slide, Nevada should recover with two notches in the win column, one over New Mexico and an upset in San Diego. 

To cap off the season is a road game in Fresno and a match-up against bitter rival, UNLV. Fresno St. is coming off a MWC championship, and it would be a massive upset if the Pack beat them on their own turf. 

The Fremont Cannon will be up for grabs when UNLV heads to Reno on Nov. 30. After last season’s meltdown in the second half, Nevada should be hungry to beat the Rebels. It’s a safe bet that the Fremont Cannon will be painted blue following the game. 

Isaiah: 7-5

Nevada’s 2019 schedule has a pair of formidable non-conference opponents. Luckily, the home games are evenly spread throughout to go along with back-to-back road games against San Diego State and Fresno State.

Purdue, Oregon, Utah St., Wyoming, SDSU and Fresno St. don’t bode well for the Pack. Fresno State is coming off a Mountain West Championship, while Utah State quarterback Jordan Love has garnered some Heisman Trophy hype. Despite the packed schedule, the Wolf Pack have the talent to remain a tough beat in conference, especially towards the tail end of the season against New Mexico and UNLV. It’s crucial to get off to a good start as the new faces gel on both sides of the ball, but a tough schedule to start the year can have them falling down the Mountain West Conference standings early on. 

Nevada has the talent on both sides of the ball to win 7-8 games this season. But so many new faces can lead to some stumbles along the way. The Wolf Pack scheduled up to their opponents, and the experience may help the younger squad in the future more than the present. Nevada has the ability to repeat as bowl champions, but two-straight appearances don’t seem very likely. With that being said, the Wolf Pack will be a competitive and feisty team and they finish the year on a high note with the Fremont Cannon back in their grasp . 

Matt: 7-5

The Wolf Pack begin the season with a rugged schedule, versus Purdue and No. 11 Oregon, the first time opening the season against two power five opponents since 2007. The Pack defense will be tested early, going head-to-head with sophomore Boilermaker receiver Rondale Moore and senior Oregan quarterback Justin Herber, two potential All-Americans.  

The Pack’s schedule then eases up. They face former Big Sky rival — Weber State — at home, followed by Texas El-Paso on the road before entering conference play. Expect Nevada to build momentum with these two games. Weber State is coming a 10-3 season and their third consecutive FCS playoff appearance. Through the first four games, Nevada should be at least 2-2 on the season. 

Nevada opens up conference play against Hawaii. Junior Cole McDonald, one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West, leads one of the best passing offenses in the nation. Hawai’i  finished 9th in the nation with 310.3 pass yards per game, led by now senior receivers Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward. They will shoulder the load, after losing top receiver John Ursua to the NFL. Nevada has won every home game against Hawai’i since 2009, it’s a safe bet to say that trend continues. 

The Pack then face San Jose St. at home, followed by two tough road opponents in Utah St. and Wyoming. The silver and blue should handle San Jose State handedly. Utah St. returns only two starters on offense — one of which is senior quarterback Jordan Love, who earned preseason Maxwell Award list honors. The Maxwell Award is given to the best player in College Football. Utah St. will compete and give Nevada a challenge in head coach Gary Anderson’s second stint with the Aggies. Wyoming presents a tough challenge because of the defense head coach Craig Bohl has built. They held opponents to 22.0 points per game, second-fewest in the Mountain West. Nevada will go 2-1 through the three games. 

On the back half of the season, they face New Mexico at Mackay, then San Diego St. and Fresno St. on the road. Finally, Nevada caps off the season by hosting UNLV. 

It goes without saying, Pack will beat New Mexico.

 San Diego St. hasn’t finished a season below .500 in their previous eight seasons under head coach Ricky Long — that should continue. Fresno St., coming off their first Mountain West title since 2013, presents another obstacle for the Pack. Fresno St. is not the same team they were last year, but are still capable of competing for a Mountain West title. It is more than possible for the Pack to win either of these games, but it’s not likely. 

After their second-half meltdown in Las Vegas last year, Nevada will bounce back against their in-state rival UNLV. The Fremont Cannon once again will be housed in Reno following the game. Look for another post-season bowl for Nevada this season. 

Austin: 9-3

As students come back to campus that can only mean one thing, Nevada football season is upon us.

Nevada takes on two very tough teams to start the season versus Purdue and No. 11 ranked Oregon. The Pack should be able to exploit Purdue’s pass defense as it gave up the third-most yards in the FBS last year, thus allowing the Pack to squeak out a win against Purdue. No. 11 ranked Oregon is another story, as the Pack would have to pull off one of the biggest upsets in school history to defeat the Ducks. 

After that, the level of talent drops off a bit as Nevada faces FCS opponent, Weber St. and a struggling UTEP squad. Both schools should be handled with ease as the Wolf Pack improve to 3-1 on the year. 

The next five games should tell fans how serious the Pack is about a MW title run as Nevada faces Hawai’i, San Jose State, Utah State, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Nevada will take on a talented Hawai’i group in Reno. However, they should squeak out a win due to home-field advantage. 

San Jose State is probably a win, as the Spartans have won only three games in the last two years. Utah State is looking to improve on a special 11-2 season last year, and will most likely defeat Nevada in Logan, Utah. The Pack should bounce back and beat both Wyoming and New Mexico, who both will have mediocre years at best.

The next two games will be the most brutal two games of the season. Nevada will face MW foe San Diego State in San Diego and then Fresno State in Fresno. The Wolf Pack will have to win at least one of these two games if they want a shot at their first-ever MW title.

San Diego State is a stout team, and a road victory may be too much for the Pack. However, Fresno State is not the same team than they were last year, look for Nevada in the upset. Lastly, the original University of Nevada will look to change the cannon to blue, as the little brothers from down south — UNLV — travel to Reno. Nevada will get its revenge, as this is the game coaches and players have had circled for months

The sports section and its writers can be reached at rfreeberg@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.