Every year, a team is grossly underranked at the beginning of the college football season. Those mistakes take weeks to correct as voters slowly adjust their preconceived notions on how the football landscape should look.
This year, that team is the Nevada Wolf Pack. In three games this year, their offense has put up 152 points. In the process, they hammered both Colorado State and California. Those would be the same Cal Bears who outscored their two previous opponents 104-10, to include a 52-7 drubbing of the once proud Colorado Buffaloes. Until they ran into the Nevada shredder, the Bears looked like a likely contender to challenge Oregon for the PAC-10 title.
Plenty of people were quick to dismiss Boise State after Virgina Tech's loss to James Madison. But few have noted that Nevada's win over Cal may prove to be a huge boost for the Broncos. What if Cal proves to still be one of the Pac-10's best teams? I think that is very likely based on how they have looked in comparison to most of the teams in their conference.
Based upon their play to date, Nevada should be ranked somewhere around 15 instead of just outside the Top 25.
This week, Nevada goes on the road for the first time to take on a struggling Brigham Young team that will be playing desperate after back to back losses against Air Force and Florida State. The Wolf Pack are four point favorites in that game. If I was a betting man, I'd take Nevada to easily cover the spread.
Nevada also has a chance here to make a major statement before moving into the Mountain West conference. They are moving in while BYU is moving out with both happening as early as next year.
In addition to the BYU game, Nevada also has tough road tests against Fresno State and Hawaii, always a tough place to play due to the jet lag and distractions. They have one sleeper game against an improved Utah State at home.
Still, I like Chris Ault's team in all of those games assuming they can play even remotely as well on the road as they have looked at home.
The line on Nevada for the last few years is that they have an excellent offense that can score points by the barrel, but have a defense that could not stop a local high school team. The offense has been almost obscenely effective at times, moving and scoring at will against anybody and everybody. Unfortunately for Nevada, the defense has been the offense's polar opposite.
That has changed this year, with the defense playing soundly in the early season. That spells danger for their opponents the rest of the way.
In addition to being the most underrated team, they also feature the most underrated player. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick may be the most exciting and dynamic player in the country, a legitimate threat with both his arms and legs. Too bad almost nobody gets to see him play.
Against Cal, he tallied five touchdowns, two through the air and three on the ground while racking up 181 yards passing and 148 yards rushing. Look for him to rise in the Heisman race as Nevada moves into prominence later in the season.
Nevada is the new Boise State now that Boise is comfortably sitting among college football elites, the unknown team that nobody wants to play because nothing good can come of it. Get embarrassed and take a major hit to your reputation and season. Survive and everybody shrugs. That was the conundrum Cal faced last week and plenty of teams before them faced with Boise back when they were still largely unknown.
And the new Boise has a fantastic opportunity to knock off the old Boise late in the season.
Nevada catches Boise at home on Nov. 26, with an excellent chance of bringing an 11-0 record into that game. Based on what we've seen to date, I expect Nevada to finally end up on the right side of that shoot-out with their revamped defense being the difference.
Nevada is one of the few teams in the country to give Boise a run for their money over the past few years, putting up a ton of points on the Broncos on the way to three losses. With just a little bit of defense, they would have won a couple of those games.
Look at the scores from their last three head to head games; 44-33, 41-34, and a ludicrous 69-67.
And then circle that game on the calendar. It will be one of the most interesting of the college football season.
Those who are bashing the Broncos for their schedule have not been paying attention to Nevada, or Fresno State for that matter. That will change over the next few weeks. And we may all be talking about Nevada by the beginning of December.
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