Nevada head coach Chris Ault has done an excellent job with this program. He has coached the team for 27 years in total, in three separate stints. Over the past eight seasons, he’s led the Wolfpack to seven bowl appearances. You can follow the odds and find winning picks on the Wolfpack and much more this season with College Football Free Picks.
Nevada ended the season at 7-6 in 2011 after a 17-24 loss to Southern Miss in the Hawaii Bowl. The Wolfpack return 12 total starters and 31 lettermen this season. This team will be inexperienced, but talented on the offensive side of the ball.
Nevada has put up offenses that have regularly been among the best in college football year in and year out. They have averaged over 31 points and 500 yards in four consecutive seasons, including the 31.7 and 507 they put up last year. Ault is an offensive maestro, but he’s handing the keys to the offense to new offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, who was at Hawaii the past two years.
Sophomore QB Cody Fajardo earned Freshman WAC Player of the Year honors for his efforts last season.
Nevada will need to replace their top two rushers from last season with both Lampford Mark and Mike Ball leaving. Freshman back Tony Knight is expected to start, while junior Stephon Jefferson should get significant carries as well.
The Wolfpack should be good at receiver, despite losing both Rashard Matthews and Shane Anderson at wideout. That’s because both senior WR Brandon Wimberly and senior TE Zach Sudfeld comes back after missing almost all of last season due to injury. Coming back as well is sophomore WR Aaron Bradley and junior TE Kolby Arendse. They add JUCO transfer Nigel Westbrooks at receiver as well.
The offensive line should be just as strong coming into 2012 with three starters and 75 career starts returning. First-team All-WAC guard Chris Barker and second-team All-WAC tackle Jeff Nady lead the way.
The defense gave up a respectable 25.2 points and 369 total yards per game last season. The Wolfpack return six starters on this side of the ball, but lose their top two tacklers, and many of their best players.
Their biggest loss may be up front where DT Brett Roy has departed. Their only returning starter is junior DT Jack Reynoso. JUCO transfer Cortez Woods should dominate alongside Reynose at defensive tackle. Both sophomore DE’s Jake Peppard and Tyler Houk are still quite raw and they may not be ready to be big contributors in 2012.
The linebacker position loses their #1 and #2 tacklers in Brandon Marshall and James-Michael-Johnson. Both players were taken in the NFL during the offseason. Former DE Albert Rosette moved to MLB in the spring. Also coming back is senior SLB Jeremiah Green, and JUCO transfer Jon McNeal’s ready to start at the WLB position.
The secondary played exceptionally well last year, allowing just 48.3% completions and 222 passing yards/game to opposing quarterbacks. This unit should once again be their bread and butter on the defensive end as seven of their top eight players are back. They lost first-team All-WAC CB Isaiah Frey to the NFL, but return three starters in senior CB Khalid Wooten, senior SS Duke Williams, and senior FS Marlon Johnson.
Mountain West Prediction – 2nd Place
The Wolf Pack move from the WAC to the Mountain West this season. While the MWC used to be very strong, it appears to be down this season with the departure of TCU, and a lot of inexperience from most teams in the conference. Boise State is even expected to be down this year. The Wolfpack certainly has the talent to compete for a conference title in their first year in the MWC. Their schedule is also quite manageable facing teams on the road that are winnable, while all their toughest games will be played at home. Their game against Boise State at home at the end of the regular season could be the deciding factor on whether or not the Wolfpack can win the conference.
Jack Jones is an experienced handicapper who writes and provides expert picks for Betfirms.com. You can head there now and read more about the Wolfpack in a more detailed preview.