Can you tell us about Nevada as a school? Of course we hear about UNLV (as I assume you hear about Syracuse)
First off, the two are huge rivals and dislike each other quite a bit. It really just pops out of nowhere if you are driving along I-80 and this huge town pops up for a few miles and then there is nothing for miles on either direction. There are people who head out there and expect it to be in the middle of nowhere, and it is to an extent, but the town itself is structured like a reasonably sized city. The big ticket item between the two schools is the Fremont Cannon which Nevada currently holds and goes to the winner of the football game.
Polian has deep ties to Buffalo. Won some games for you last year, but is the fan base happy with the coach?
Taking over for a legend anywhere is tough and especially when that coach invented the offense they are using like Chris Ault did in the pistol not everyone will be happy. The team has dipped a bit compared to the last few years under Ault, but the Wolf Pack also had Colin Kaepernick as their quarterback which makes a difference. They are not quite to the level to win the division, or the conference, but they have been a solid bowl team. The big complaint is that the offense has not been as consistent under Polian despite having the same offensive coordinator in Nick Rolovich. The offense just seems to disappear at times but overall the fan base is not in love but the team has not slipped to obscurity.
The last two games where against top 25 ranked teams. What did you learn about your team?
They were reasonably competitive but couldn't get the job done and the blame has to go more on their defense and turning the ball over on offense. Running back Don Jackson showed fairly well against a pair of good defense and Tyler Stewart threw the ball well, but nothing great outside of a few plays here and there. Basically, it shows they are overmatched once the game gets into the second half at most positions and also that they are still a few steps behind from what they were about five years ago. They can compete but not yet have the talent to get those wins against ranked teams.
You talked about the pistol. You have a new starter after Fajardo and a large chunk of the offensive line had to be replaced. Who are the players and how have they stepped up so far this year.
The three key points to the pistol are having a quarterback which is Tyler Stewart, a starting running back and in this case it is Don Jackson and a solid backup in James Butler. The key is to have Stewart throw for in the mid-200 yard range and run for another 30-60, Jackson get around 100 and Butler chip in with at least 50. That is the ideal split and Nevada seems to be very close to having that. They also have an underrated wide receiver in Hasaan Henderson who has the potential to be one of the best in the league, and Jerico Richardson has surprised with keeping pace with Henderson's numbers with each having 16 catches.
How is Nevada going to do the rest of the season and what is your prediction for this game?
The West division is just awful and so they are not out of winning that side of the conference but a bowl game is probably the baseline for the Wolf Pack and if things go right they have a shot to win the West. As for this game, I think Nevada will have an explosive offense now that they are playing a team more on their level than a pair of ranked teams. There will be some mistakes by Nevada and probably an interception by Stewart, but Nevada will grind out a win by running the ball with Jackson and Butler.
Nevada questions, and my replies:
How does Buffalo's defense plan to do to slow down the pistol attack that is moving reasonably well so far this year?
Same plan as the defense single handily beating Florida Atlantic last week. Take some time and cue the highlights. Buffalo scored three defensive touchdowns and threw in a safety to boot! Slow down with the Bulls fast linebackers and secondary. Buffalo does not have the massive running stuffing linebackers. The linebackers are mobile and can make plays.
The strength of this team is behind the defensive line. Keep an eye on #1 CB Ross. This young man will have a future in the NFL. A converted WR who was pressed into action as the team before Baylor had no depth at all. Ross has been a shutdown corner with a sweet pick six last week.
What has stood out so far on the Buffalo’s team this year?
This team was to be an offensive juggernaut with four year starter at QB Joe Licata. Very large offensive line and weapons galore. On the offensive side of the ball watch out for another #1 RB Taylor. Taylor has carried the recent UB RB success from current NFL players James Starks (Green Bay) and Branden Oliver (San Diego). Secondly, the weapons at wide receiver and tight end are as deep as any team in football. Unfortunately where many thought Licata would light up his senior year, he has look pedestrian at best.
What are the expectations for Buffalo this year in the MAC? Is a bowl game a possibility?
After hiring Leipold and the amount of offensive talent, many predicted a 6 – 8 win season. Right now we are on track but the MAC is tough. Look at the big victories so far as well as scaring many teams like Ohio State last week. The prediction was a solid season where the new coach settles in. With the struggles of the offense, many maybe adjusting that prediction. For Buffalo fans, let’s hope the offense kicks it into gear.
Who are the key players to watch for offensively and defensively?
Again, keep on eye out for #1 on both sides of the ball. Ross at CB who will be placed on your number one WR. Look for Taylor to work the middle of the line and when ready break a huge gain off the edge. Look for #2 Johnson who is a larger running back who can run and punish tacklers. The strength of this team is WR’s Willoughby #86, the main target who catches everything, #13 Colin Lisa a transfer who is starting to build a connection with QB, #88 Martinez who is always open. The team also has two great pass catching TE’s in 85 Schreck & 89 Weiser.
What is your game prediction?
I did not pick Buffalo last week and they won. I see that Vegas has Buffalo as a -1 home favorite. I am going with Nevada 27 – 17.