8:00 PM---Nevada at Fresno StateESPN
Tonight's game should be an exciting affair, matching two of the WAC's three best teams. Current lines have the home Bulldogs as 12-13 point favorites.
I'm enamored of Nevada's "pistol" offensive formation, as it makes defenses look pretty stupid at times. However, it has its limitations and although Nevada executes it incredibly well, has its fits and starts---it's a streaky offense. What it does is force an opponent to play smart every down. While it can run down foes in the WAC, against more talented teams and in OOC play it's less effective.
One such talented team is tonight's opponent, Fresno State. Coach Pat Hill's boys are smarting after four consecutive losses to end last seson, and are a better team than their poor finish would indicate. Hill is a preparation wonk (anyone see that gem against USC last year?) and likes his team to play fast and physical. He has enough talent and size on both sides of the ball to improve upon last year's 38-35 upset loss to the Wolfpack.
Fresno State will be breaking in a new quarterback, which should limit their offensive consistency a little, but Nevada simply doesn't have the numbers on defense to hold Fresno back completely. I remember watching Fresno State break in departed quarterback Paul Pinegar a few years back. Unfortunately he was hurt almost immediately and replaced by Jeff Grady for a few games. Pinegar eventually emerged as a legit D-I quarterback and went onto a great Fresno State career. I expect a similar career arc for this year's starter, sophomore Tom Brandstater. His backup is the diminuitive Sean Norton out of QB-factory Hart High School in California.
My pick? Fresno State. Nevada will have its moments offensively, despite hilariously average talent. For example, their starting tailback is just about as slow of a D-I player as you will find anywhere, but he's a grinder and fights for a lot of yards in spite of himself. I'm not expecting fireworks tonight, as this shouldn't be a "typical WAC shootout". Fresno State should play reasonably well on defense and use their talent and homefield advantages to great effect.