To preview this weekend's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between BC and the 'Pack, we welcome back Pack Backer from the awesomely-named Nevada blog Pistol Whipping The WAC.
In exchange, we'll be answering some questions for Pack Backer over on their site.
BC Interruption: Have to get this question out of the way first -- what's wrong with getting brown socks for Christmas?
Pistol Whipping The WAC: We love Joe, but a lot of my fellow fans and I disagree with his assessment here. On the contrary, given the other bowl options that awaited the Pack, this was far and away the best outcome we could've hoped for. Given how hard they already recruit California, the timing of the game, the destination and caliber of opponent, the benefits of playing in the Kraft Bowl are numerous and we're pretty satisfied to see Nevada playing there with all things considered. Additionally, our fans showed by example that it's where they wanted to be. Anyone who is honestly disappointed the Pack ended up in San Francisco need only remember that the alternatives would've been Albuquerque or Boise in mid-December against Mountain West or MAC teams. Woof.
Nonetheless, Joe's disappointment is still indicative of what a lot of fans of non-AQ teams feel about the bowl system. When a team like Michigan State slips up, they still get a cushy date in Florida with a fellow Top 25 SEC team. But when a team like Nevada slips up, they slip aaaaallllll the way from a potential Fiesta Bowl to the latest "Insert Shameless Sponsorship Here" bowl game. The back-up bowls of the non-AQ teams just don't hold a candle to the deals BCS teams have in place. We understand that Nevada still has a lot to prove as far as their staying power on the national scene, but we also believe that there has to be a better means of determining who the best football teams are than this current bowl system. The BCS automatically excludes certain teams from being able to win a title, and the resulting bowl system for everyone else punishes non-AQ teams much more severely for a loss than it punishes other teams simply because of the names on their jerseys. You could never tell us with a straight face that a team like Connecticut was more deserving of a BCS bowl game than a team like Boise State was this year (ed. note: Amen! Preaching to the choir there ...). And honestly, how much better would THAT Fiesta Bowl have been?
BCI: Nevada has had a nationally ranked, top 10 offense for four straight years now, yet the Wolf Pack's record has just been a hair above .500 the last few years. What has been the main reason behind Nevada's breakout season and 12-1 regular season record?
PWtW: In a word? Defense. Or more specifically, finally making the right hire for defensive coordinator. In 2008, Nigel Burton was brought to Nevada from Oregon State after his secondaries consistently led the Pac-10 year after year. But the problem was that his scheme relied too heavily on isolated corners making plays by themselves instead of getting the whole defense involved in defending passes -- it was just too aggressive for what he had to work with. Couple that with games against teams in and out of conference that threw the ball a LOT and threw it very well (Texas Tech with Graham Harrell, Missouri with Chase Daniel and the usual pass-happy WAC teams) and it was a recipe for disaster nearly every week. But by contrast, Andy Buh -- the new DC -- has implemented a system that actually fits the players he has, and he was able to install it against much more manageable opponents this year. They still give up their share of yards, but as far as limiting big plays and keeping teams out of the end zone, they're the best defense Nevada has had in a long time, and they haven't come close to reaching their full potential yet.
BCI: Nevada is averaging 42.6 points per game while BC is giving up just 19.5, so something has got to give in this one. Will Nevada's final point total end up closer to 42.6 or 19.5? Why?
PWtW: Score predictions are normally something I try to steer clear of, but I can say with some certainty that Nevada will not score more than 42 or less than 19 points in this game (courageous, I know). I think having a month to prepare and Nevada's prior disappointments in recent bowl games work in BC's favor, but they've also never defended an offense like the Pistol, and right now nobody in America runs it as well as Colin Kaepernick does. If I had to guess, I'd say if all goes well, then their final point total would likely be between 35 and 21 points -- sorry, but that's as specific as I'm willing to get.
BCI: Which win would mean more for the program and the Wolf Pack faithful -- Nevada's 34-31 overtime upset win over #4 Boise State, or a bowl victory over BC to give Nevada a program best 13th win? Why?
PWtW: The Boise State win, and please let me explain before I get shunned. The Broncos are, in our opinion, a legitimate Top 15 program, and that win instantly elevated Nevada's season from extraordinary to truly magical. That was a win over a team in the Top 5 at the time; a team which hadn't lost in nearly two whole seasons, had national championship aspirations and that no one thought Nevada had a fighting chance against. Those are the kinds of wins that, if capitalized upon properly, can lay the foundation for an elite, nationally visible football program and define it for a whole generation of new fans. A bowl win over Boston College would also be great, but only in the sense that it would ice one hell of a cake that's already been built up. Whether they win or lose on Sunday, this season will still be looked back upon by us as one for the ages.
BCI: Much like BC's move from the Big East to the ACC, Nevada is on the move in 2012, moving from the WAC to the Mountain West. What are your general thoughts on the move? Any hard feelings or animosity towards TCU, Utah or BYU -- the MWC's top three programs -- considering those programs are all on their way out as the best WAC football programs move to the MWC?
PWtW: The Mountain West is absolutely where Nevada athletics needs to be, and we're thrilled with the move. It's better for football, better for basketball, a LOT better for travel and we'll finally share a conference with UNLV again. But with that said, our fans, coaches and administrators have a lot of work to do in the coming years if we're to elevate Nevada's teams to the level most Mountain West programs are already on. This includes recruiting, donations, facilities and fan support, among other things. We definitely empathize with the WAC teams being left behind, because we could've been in that situation if a few things had gone differently at Nevada.
I, personally, don't begrudge Utah or TCU leaving the way they did. They've built up great athletic programs that earned their respective invitations, and deserve the chance to prove themselves at the next level. As for BYU...I don't understand their decision for a lot of reasons, but if they think independence is their best option, then they shouldn't be stopped from pursuing it. They made a lot of enemies in the Mountain West from the sound of things, so maybe it was best for everyone that they left. Would the competition have benefited Nevada if all three had stuck around? Of course, but even without them, comparing the new Mountain West to the new WAC is still like comparing the Playboy Mansion to the Shady Lady Ranch.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got in this one? What's the final score?
PWtW: Again, I try to avoid predicting scores when I can. Instead, in my regular season previews I do a pretty self-explanatory feature called "Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario." In the former, I see Nevada's seniors continuing the trend of doing things no other Nevada team has done and getting the bowl win monkey off of their backs, with the passing component methodically grinding down BC's defense and Coach Buh's unit holding their offense to 13 or fewer points. In the latter, I see BC's defense playing a really stellar game and the Pistol not having any real success until it's too late, with the Eagles winning by scoring at least two touchdowns apiece on offense and defense and the season ending with real questions regarding Coach Ault's bowl preparation methods.
It's been a real pleasure collaborating with this blog, and I look forward to seeing a great game in person on Sunday night.
BCI: Thanks for joining us, and good luck on Sunday.
For more information on the Nevada Wolf Pack, be sure to check out Pistol Whipping The WAC.