"Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The thought just occurred to me: why am I referring to this as a Week 8 preview when we're technically in the 9th week of the football season? Well, the best explanation I can give you, the reader, is LOOK OVER THERE!!!
Utah State Aggies
Before the season started, Utah State was thought to be the cellar-dwelling WAC team with the best chance of pulling itself up by its cleats and turning in a bowl-worthy season. And given how competitive Gary Andersen made them last year and the effort they turned in against Oklahoma in Week 1, that looked to be a logical prediction. Then came the game against "WACstabber" Fresno State (seriously, that's the most malicious name they could come up with for the two departing programs?) -- they lost. Then the San Diego State game -- they lost. That's when the injuries began to mount. Then a convincing win against an equally depleted BYU team...followed by two more losses. The competitive fire the Aggies showed in most of their games last year has been extinguished and replaced with the kind of lopsided final scores we're more used to seeing from them.
That lack of fire hasn't stemmed from lack of effort, though. With so few weapons to help him out on offense, quarterback Diondre Borel has regressed, going from hellishly good against Oklahoma to hellishly bad against Louisiana Tech and Hawai'i. Not surprisingly, the team has descended along with him all the way into the bottom halves of most of the major statistical categories. On a positive note, they've been very efficient inside the 20s, converting 89.5% of their scoring opportunities once there. But aside from that, there is literally nothing in the rest of their statistics on offense, defense or special teams that really separates them from either San Jose State or New Mexico State, the WAC's two worst teams and some of the all-around worst in the country. This was a team with some great potential for a program-changing season that has now gone spectacularly off the rails due to injuries.
Nevada plays with anger and renewed focus, further plunging Utah State into the world of pain they already find themselves waist deep in. The bye week of practice and rest, Mackay's friendly confines and reeling opposition all come together for the ideal "rebound" win. Nevada's offense, defense and special teams all accomplish what is expected of each of them, and the final score is indicative of the opposite directions the two teams are heading in.
Rather than rise up, Nevada uses the Hawai'i loss as an excuse to completely fold. There's no noticeable urgency, no desire for atonement and no pride displayed for those in attendance. Fans will wonder if the team can reach true mid-season form and the visitors will be made to look much better than they are. Nevada still emerges with a win, but it is accompanied by apprehension and a general malaise that begins to virulently spread.
There's honestly not a whole lot more to be said. The outcome of this game ultimately depends upon what mindset Nevada carries into it. Even with the Hawai'i loss, the Pack has a lot more going for them than the Aggies do right now, but it remains to be seen whether their on-field play will reflect that. The only real chance Utah State has of keeping this game close will be to force the Pack to make the same mistakes that cost them their last game, and it doesn't appear they have enough going for them -- either on or off the field -- to make that happen.