Sports Fodder: Everything has changed for the Wolf Pack
September 24, 2010
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Attention, Nevada Wolf Pack football fans, this Saturday you will be traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead. Your next stop, the Twilight Zone. OK, it’s not really the Twilight Zone. It’s only going to be Provo, Utah and LaVell Edwards Stadium. But you get the idea. Don’t be shocked to see Rod Serling sitting off in a corner of the stadium smoking a cigarette. The Pack football team has carried us into a parallel universe. Nothing makes sense anymore. The Wolf Pack is favored against BYU. Imagine that. And the game is at BYU, no less. The Pack is ranked higher than BYU in the national media and coach’s polls. The Pack, at 3-0, has the far better record (BYU is 1-2). And, get a load of this, the game actually means more to BYU than it does for the Pack. It feels a little weird, doesn’t it?
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Get used to it, Pack fans. We have entered a new age of Wolf Pack football. The Biggest Little Football Team is now one of the hunted. That’s what beating Cal last week at Mackay Stadium did for the Pack. It raised the level of expectations higher than the summit of Mount Rose. Beating the Pack would be a feather in BYU’s cap. The Pack is the new Boise. The biggest concern the Wolf Pack has to safeguard against on Saturday will be — dare we say it? — overconfidence. See, I told you we were in the Twilight Zone.
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All of the intangibles on Saturday, though, will be on the BYU sideline. BYU has won 24 of its last 26 home games. The Pack has to worry about a letdown after beating Cal. BYU’s back is up against the wall, having lost two in a row, and needs to win to turn its season around. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall has never lost three games in a row since getting the Cougars’ job in 2005. BYU also has revenge on its side. The last time these teams met, the Pack won 31-28 in Reno in 2002. But we still like the Pack to beat the Notre Dame of the West, 42-28.
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A victory over BYU will likely get the Pack ranked in the Top 25. How far can this Pack team go this year? Well, if the Pack gets over the BYU hump, they are looking at a very possible 11-0 record heading into a national (and possible BCS) showdown with 10-0 Boise State on Nov. 26. It would be the biggest football game in the history of Wolf Pack football. Both teams could be ranked in the Top 10. Mackay Stadium would be the mecca of college football. See, it’s exactly this type of thinking that the Pack needs to avoid over the next two months.
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Can a NFL team start the season 0-3 and still make the playoffs? The San Francisco 49ers might find out. The 0-2 49ers now have to go to Kansas City to meet the 2-0 Chiefs. Beating anybody on the road is always a chore for these post-Steve Young 49ers, let alone an unbeaten team in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. But the Chiefs might be the worst 2-0 team in NFL history. They’ve done it with mirrors so far. This is the weekend that gets the Niners’ season pointed in the right direction. There have been five NFL teams, by the way, that started 0-3 and still made the playoffs. The 1998 Buffalo Bills are the last team to do it. Those 0-3 Bills beat (you guessed it) the 3-0 49ers and Steve Young to turn their season around.
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Tom Cable’s job as Oakland Raiders head coach must be on the line from week to week. Why else would Cable pull starting quarterback Jason Campbell in the middle of last week’s game (in Week 2) for Bruce Gradkowski? And now Gradkowski is the Raiders’ starter? What happened to Campbell being the next Jim Plunkett? Not even Plunkett was the Plunkett the Raiders came to know and love after just a game and a half. It’s never boring in Oakland.
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It’s easy to look at Brett Favre these days and say he should have confined his quarterbacking performances to those Wrangler commercials. The poor guy looks old and beat up and, well, let’s just say that he’s lucky Tom Cable isn’t his head coach. Favre will never just quit. So it might be up to the Vikings to simply pull the plug on his career before it gets real ugly. They might have to simply release him during the season. The last thing Vikings coach Brad Childress wants, after all, is an angry and bored Favre on the sidelines. Those Vikings players who went down to Mississippi to get Favre in August might have to escort him back home in a month. Did you really think it was going to end well for Favre?