Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of The Nevada Sagebrush or its Sports Desk.
As another Wolf Pack football season comes to a close, the Sports Desk of The Nevada Sagebrush debates how the rest of the season will play out. Nevada is already bowl-eligible, but with two games left, there is still a lot at the stack for the Pack.
A trip to Fresno, then the battle for the Fremont cannon to close out the season. Is the Pack primed for postseason glory? Will the cannon be blue once again? The Sports Desk debates.
With two games left in the year, Nevada football is sitting at a fairly comfortable spot. They’re already bowl-eligible and at the worst will finish .500 on the season. However, they won’t finish the year 0-2.
This team has picked up some bumps and bruises along the way, most notably against Oregon and Hawai’i. Despite those rough losses, Jay Norvell and company have a chance at putting together what can be considered a really special season. Standing in their way? Fresno State and their little brother from down south.
Fresno State is not a pushover, despite being 4-6 on the year. A formidable rushing attack and a solid home-field advantage will make this road trip tough for the Wolf Pack. That being said, it’s not impossible to win in Fresno. Three times have done so this year alone.
Minnesota, Colorado State and Utah State have all walked into Bulldog Stadium and walked away victorious. However, the emotional depth of the game shouldn’t be overlooked. The Bulldogs game against the Pack will be Senior Night, the last time many of the Bulldogs’ players will ever play a home game again. That has a lot of emotional weight and can spark a team to victory.
Although Nevada may drop their final road game of the year, thankfully they’ll come home to little brother knocking on their door.
The team—that will not be named—from southern Nevada will come into Mackay on Nov. 30 looking to keep the Fremont Cannon red. Don’t bet on that happening.
Nevada should beat the Rebels soundly and send them running back to Las Vegas with their tails between their legs.
Predicting a bowl berth is rather difficult at this current moment. CBS Sports currently has Nevada projected to match-up against Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl, so let’s go with that.
It’s likely Nevada will finish 1-1 in its final two regular-season contests. The Pack will then go on to appear in bowl game—this would mark bowl appearance No. 17 for Nevada throughout their history.
After the Wolf Pack’s first top 25 road victory in school history, they face another tough road opponent in Fresno State. The Bulldogs have played better than their 4-6 record suggests. They are No. 5 in the Mountain West Conference in points per contest with 31.6—No. 52 nationally—paired with 394.8 yards per game. Fresno State has suffered tough losses to Minnesota, USC, Utah State and SDSU—all of which are quality opponents—by a combined 25 points.
Nevada will have to stop the Bulldogs’ rushing attack which ranks top five in the conference with 167 yards per game. The backfield is led by junior Ronnie Rivers. Rivers has a conference-leading 12 rushing touchdowns, along with 702 rushing yards and has averaged 70.2 yards per carry, both ranking in the top 10 in the conference among running backs.
To close out the season, Nevada will retake the Fremont Cannon on Senior Day versus in-state rival UNLV. Charles Williams and the Runnin’ Rebels run into Reno with the conference’s No. 6 ranked rushing attack. Williams is in the top three in the MWC in rushing yards with 876 and yards per game with 97.3. Nevada has won 11 of the last 14 matchups versus UNLV. Look for that success to continue come Nov. 30.
Nevada will finish 2-0 to close out the season and make its second-straight bowl appearance.
Sitting at 6-4, the Wolf Pack have some momentum riding toward the final two games of the regular season. Nevada recorded its first road victory against a Top 25 ranked collegiate team, topping San Diego State 17-13.
Now, the Wolf Pack face a tough test on the road at Fresno State and the final home game against rival UNLV. Fresno State’s potent rushing attack can post problems for Nevada defensively. The Bulldogs rush for an average of 167 yards per game. Despite this, the Pack’s stout defensive front has wreaked havoc in the trenches over the last two weeks and is expected to do the same.
Nevada’s offense can make enough plays late to squeak out a close victory against a solid Fresno State squad, despite the 4-6 record.
Coming into the final home game, expect Nevada to carry that same momentum against its in-state rival. The Wolf Pack can dominate both sides of the ball and paint the Fremont Cannon blue to tie the bow on a successful regular season.
There’s bowl contention in store for Nevada, and two more wins to close out the year can solidify a spot.
The Sports Desk can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.