Wednesday, October 6, 2010

PWtW Week 6 Preview

"Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is 'Never try'".
~ Homer Simpson

Why is it that my favorite TV show of all time only now gets an introductory quote in This Space? Hell if I know, but I hope it isn't the last chance I get to do so. Here's your special Homecoming edition of the Pee-Dub-Tee-Dub preview -- now with 33% more spirit for free!

San Jose State Spartans

There are times in our lives when we reach extreme lows. Times when we feel as if nothing goes right or that we were preordained to suffer. Times when we contemplate if things could possibly get any worse.

It's during times like those that we can often find some modicum of comfort in looking at the plights of others, stepping back to look at the "big picture" and realizing that -- in the Light of Eternity -- things aren't nearly THAT bad. This is the type of situation that Nevada and San Jose State find themselves on opposite sides of this week.

I've had my share of nights when I crawl into bed and bitterly nod off to sleep with a resignation: "Well, that was a shitty day." But I always follow it up with an "it could be worse" platitude to take the edge off: "But hey! At least I have a family I love and a job I enjoy." My mornings after Wolf Pack games haven't been exempt from these realizations -- particularly the mornings following a humiliating loss the day or night before. As I quietly curse my own fanaticism and wonder why I take it all as seriously as I do, I'll think to myself: "Well, that was a shitty game. But hey! At least I'm not a Spartan fan."

These poor souls have officially taken the position vacated by Idaho as the Unluckiest Fans in the WAC, and frankly the fact that it didn't happen sooner is a minor miracle. Having to compete for attention in the Bay Area with not only Cal and Stanford but the 49ers, Raiders, Sharks, Giants, A's and even the Warriors is friggin' rough (the list gets even bigger if you include Santa Clara, Saint Mary's and San Francisco). If Spartan fans had at least one revenue sport to rally around -- something they could all point to and say "This is what we're about" -- this wouldn't be so bad, but the college sports gods haven't seen fit to even grant them that much. Their football team hasn't beaten a D-1 opponent since New Mexico State in November of last year and hasn't beaten a team that finished at .500 or better since Hawai'i in 2008. Back in the present, they're also coming off of a home loss to UC Davis during which they were flagged for eleven penalties and blew a 13-point halftime lead. And the coup de grace? It was their Homecoming game. Again, friggin' ROUGH.

" least I'm still not a Spartan fan!"

But before you accuse me of piling on to a program and fan base already suffering enough, you have to understand where I'm coming from. I grew up in nearby Fremont before moving to Reno in the late 90s, and have plenty of connections to SJSU myself. My Dad earned one of his Master's degrees there. It's where my aunt and uncle first met each other. My first brush with diehard fanaticism in sports came at a San Jose Clash soccer game at Spartan Stadium when I saw Krazy George in person. Wolf Pack/Spartan games in San Jose have provided the perfect excuse to make the four-hour drive back to my old home every year or two, and it's one thing I'll sorely miss when Nevada moves to the Mountain West. I really do want to see the Spartans succeed, and it pains me to see them struggle year after year as much as they do.

But back to the game at hand. The good news for the Fighting Anthonys is that playing three other nationally ranked opponents on the road in their first five games (and hosting Boise State and Fresno State in their next two games -- seriously, who makes a schedule like that?) will have conditioned them to not be afraid when they line up against a team of Nevada's caliber. The bad news is that with everything else stacked against new coach Mike MacIntyre's team, this confidence still won't help them. Aside from their 24 passes defended, 4 of 6 fourth downs converted (both tied for 25th nationally) and all nine of their trips to the red zone being converted to scores, the only categories in which the Spartans aren't ranked in the bottom half of the country are all on special teams. While special teams play is obviously an important (if under-analyzed) facet of any game, it hasn't helped the Spartans to date and still won't help them as the season progresses.

Best-Case Scenario

Nevada shows up and controls every phase of the game from start to finish (and given how badly San Jose State has performed thus far, this phrase could easily be shortened to "Nevada shows up"). The ugly mistakes of the BYU and NSU games are corrected and compensated for with resoundingly great efforts all around.

Worst-Case Scenario

I got nothin'. I'm serious. Normally my ability to play up (see what I did there, Commissioner Benson?) a coming opponent's talents is downright Holtz-ian. But there just aren't any scenarios I can envision where Nevada loses this game. Maybe their team bus gets lost on the way to the stadium and they have to forfeit? I dunno.

As some of you might remember, I traveled to the road game in San Jose last year and shared some of the pictures I took of the experience. Between the sparse crowd, national TV audience and 55-point sodomizing of the Spartans, it's the only Wolf Pack road win I've witnessed in person where I actually felt a little dirty afterward. But then I remembered "At least I'm not a Spartan fan" and merrily drove home that night.

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