Nevada is coming off a disappointing 2013 campaign wherein it won the fewest games since 2001 (four) and, because of that fact, the Wolfpack are grossly underrated entering the 2014 season. With seventeen returning starters, including starting quarterback Cody Fajardo and their top two running backs, I project the Wolfpack to be one of the most improved teams in college football this season. In fact, I have little doubt that Nevada will be playing in a bowl game in December.
Nevada’s offense is led by senior quarterback Cody Fajardo, who threw for 2,668 yards (67.9% completion rate; 13-3 ratio) last season and was the team’s second-leading rusher with 621 yards on the ground. Fajardo looked very good in Nevada’s season opener where he connected on 30-of-41 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown, while also scampering for 68 yards on fifteen rushing attempts. The senior gunslinger also finds support in the backfield with running back Kendall Brock, who led the team with 812 yards at 4.4 yards per rush attempt last year. Brock finished last season strong by leading the team in rushing yards in seven of the last eight games. The Wolfpack’s offensive line welcomes back 53 career starts (38 last year) and is now much more familiar with head coach Brian Polian’s blocking schemes in his second year in Reno.
Many sports bettors would be surprised to learn that Nevada has one of the best defensive lines in the Mountain West Conference this season. The Wolfpack welcome back seven of its top eight linemen from 2013 and I expect significant improvement from this unit. Nevada also possesses an excellent secondary led by senior cornerbacks Evan Favors and Charles Garrett. The biggest improvement for Nevada on the defensive side of the ball is with its linebacking unit, which returns its top three tacklers from last season.
Washington State Synopsis:
Washington State arrives in town off a disappointing 41-38 loss to Rutgers wherein thee Cougars yielded 496 yards on 7.1 yards per play and 12.1 yards per point. I am cognizant of the fact that Washington State head coach Mike Leach has been bowl eligible in eleven of his last twelve years on the sidelines, but the Cougars’ porous defense stands little chance against Nevada’s vastly improved attack. Specifically, Washington State’s secondary is one of the worst in the nation as the Cougars lost three multi-year starters from this unit and only return three of its top eight performers overall. I expect Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo to have a career-game through the air tonight.
From an offensive standpoint, there is no question that Washington State’s attack is extremely potent behind one of the best quarterbacks in college football in Connor Halliday. Halliday set Pac-12 records last season for completions (449), pass attempts (714) and total yards (4,597). However, the Cougars have an extremely weak backfield as they garnered just six yards on fourteen attempts on the ground against Rutgers. The other issue facing Washington State is a suspect offensive line that lost three starters and returns only 33 career starts.
Let’s also note that Washington State has lost eight consecutive road openers by an average margin of 40-16, while also failing to cover the point spread in six of those contests.
Nevada is a profitable 21-6 ATS in the second of back-to-back home games, including 11-1 ATS versus non-conference opponents and 8-1-1 ATS when installed as underdogs. Game Two college football road favorites off a season-opening upset loss (Washington State) are as money-burning 15-28 ATS. Moreover, since 1990, Game Two teams off a loss in their season opener are just 124-134-4 ATS, provided they played in a bowl game the previous season, including 71-84-2 ATS when installed as favorites. Nevada is a perfect 2-0 ATS as a home underdog under coach Polian, including an outright win over San Jose State last season as a seven-point underdog.
With Nevada standing at 5-1 ATS in its last six games as home underdogs, 5-1 ATS in their last six weekday home games and 4-0 ATS in its last four games versus Pac-12 opposition (provided they are .501 or greater on the season), take the Wolfpack plus the generous points and invest with confidence.
Free Sports Pick: Nevada Wolfpack (+4) (-110)