Monday, August 30, 2010

PWtW Week 1 Preview

Conference realignments. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Vuvuzelas. "The Last Airbender". 2010 was one unholy clusterfuck of a summer that -- in spite of a few bright spots -- still mostly sucked. But weekly doses of college football make everything better, and its season is finally upon us once again.

For most college sports fans the calendar year can be broken up into two time periods: "College Football" and "Screw you! When does College Football start?!" In honor of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Not Named Christmas, I'll be here each week to break down the Wolf Pack's next opponent.

Eastern Washington Eagles

EWU hails from the Big Sky, the conference Nevada called home for all of the 1980s. Last year, they advanced to the first round of the playoffs in the Division Formerly Known as 1-AA ("FCS" still sounds weird to me) and are getting plenty of respect heading into this year despite losing 17 seniors. Running back Taiwan Jones (above) is arguably the biggest reason why, and it's hard to disagree after seeing a few of his personal highlights in this video. He reminds this blogger a lot of Nevada back Lampford Mark, both in measurements (6'1" and 200 pounds) and their penchants for speed and quick cuts.

But those seniors lost off of that team bring us to the fundamental problem of any Week 1 preview: how do you assess what kind of game to expect when neither team knows all that much about the other one? Especially when the teams in question play in different divisions and their statistical rankings from the previous year can't be fairly examined side to side? One thing you can do is turn to the depth charts.

Perusing this week's release from the Eagles (page 17), their turnover from last year to this year hasn't prevented them from starting a healthy number of upperclassmen on Thursday. One glaring weakness (if you can call it that in August) is the two true freshmen who will start on the offensive line: Steven Forgette at left guard and Brandon Murphy at right tackle. If you're either Dontay Moch or Ryan Coulson, you have to be quite pleased to hear this.

The Eagles run their offense out of the spread and will be starting SMU transfer Bo Levi Mitchell at quarterback, proving once again that the best professions for men with three-part names are either "Southern Quarterback" or "Assassin/Serial Killer". Like Nevada, they'll be shooting for a balanced offensive attack when they have the ball, and likely have the personnel to do just that.

But that brings us to the defenses, and putting it nicely for both teams....they stunk. Different divisions or not, when you're giving up an average of 27+ and 28+ points per game, respectively, you're not bragging about defense to anyone except maybe your mother. And even her unconditional love and support have their limits.

In many ways, this is exactly the kind of season opener Nevada needs: a good but beatable opponent with a strength that will immediately test their main weakness. It's not a true bellwether game like other dates on the schedule will be, but it will help us find out very quickly just what Andy Buh and his defense are about.

Best-Case Scenario

Everything comes together for the defense, with authoritative stops and turnovers leading to lots of touchdowns for the offense. The ball is spread around and multiple players see the end zone in a total team effort. Eastern Washington's offense is kept in check the whole time the first-teamers are in. Ricky Drake's replacement nails everything he kicks.

Worst-Case Scenario

The game devolves into a shoot-out early on, with both defenses being rendered totally irrelevant. The defense gives up big plays early and often, and all pressure falls on the offense to pull out a win. Nevada finds it hard to keep pace with the Eagles, and a couple of costly mistakes ultimately doom them. It's the '08 New Mexico State game all over again.

My final thought: if the Eagles played in the WAC, my spit-balling guess is that they'd finish somewhere between 5th and 7th. Even with the merited respect and praise they're receiving, the fact is that Nevada SHOULD win this game, and fairly convincingly. Nevada has a lot to prove, and if they're really as good as they look on paper, the home crowd will help them get off to the right start and coast to a win. Eastern's best chance at winning is to turn the game into a shoot-out, and even if that does occur I just don't think they have the personnel to hang around for all four quarters.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Best Week Ever

So...some week, huh?

I won't bother asking you what you think of the big news that came out of this week. Because I know we're in all-but-universal agreement of its level of shear spine-melting, ear-splitting, brain-blasting, totally made up and needlessly hyphenated adjective-creating, arm, leg AND chest hair-raising awesomeness. I'm talking (of course) about the triumphant return of Pistol Whipping the WAC.

I know, I know, and before you swoon while saying "I don't believe it!" let me assure you that neither can I. Which is really saying something, seeing as how I'm the one delivering you this news. But Packfan7 and I have finally decided to crawl out of our self-imposed (OK, Hawaii Bowl-imposed) exiles to bring you more of whatever it is that we do best. Honest. No bull. We promise.

Oh, and we'll probably break down and analyze this whole Mountain West thing at some point, too. You know, since so many people are talking about it and all.