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2008 CFN Nevada Preview
Nevada RB Luke Lippincott
Nevada RB Luke Lippincott
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 9, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack

Nevada Wolf Pack

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Nevada Preview | 2008 Nevada Offense
-
2008 Nevada Defense | 2008 Nevada Depth Chart
-
2007 CFN Nevada Preview | 2006 CFN Nevada Preview 

Head coach: Chris Ault
24th year: 181-85-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 15, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 14
Ten Best Pack Players
1. RB Luke Lippincott, Sr.
2. LB Joshua Mauga, Sr.
3. C Dominic Green, Sr.
4. DE Kevin Basped, Soph.
5. QB Colin Kaepernick, Soph.
6. FS Jonathan Amaya, Jr.
7. WR Marko Mitchell, Sr.
8. QB Nick Graziano, Jr.
  
9. PK Brett Jaekle, Sr.
10. OT Mike Gallett, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
8-4
2008 Record:
0-0

Aug. 30 Grambling State
Sept. 6 Texas Tech
Sept. 13 at Missouri
Sept. 20 OPEN DATE
Sept. 27 at UNLV
Oct. 4 at Idaho
Oct. 11 New Mexico State
Oct. 18 Utah State
Oct. 25 at Hawaii
Nov. 1 OPEN DATE
Nov. 7 at Fresno State
Nov. 15 San Jose State
Nov. 22 Boise State
Nov. 29 at Louisiana Tech

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-5
2007 Record:
6-7

Sept. 1 at Nebraska L 52-10
Sept. 8 at Nwestern L 36-31
Sept. 15
Nicholls State W 52-17
Sept. 29 UNLV W 27-20
Oct. 6 Fresno State L 49-41
Oct. 14 at Boise St L 69-67 4OT
Oct. 20
at Utah State W 31-28
Oct. 27 Idaho W 37-21
Nov. 2 at NMSU W 40-38
Nov. 16 Hawaii L 28-26
Nov. 24 at San Jose St L 27-24
Dec. 1
La Tech W 49-10
New Mexico Bowl
Dec. 22 New Mexico L 23-0

No one aspires to be an also-ran, especially in a non-BCS conference like the WAC, but Nevada is too good with too much upside to not be more of a regular in the title mix.

How close have the Wolf Pack been to being really good? It lost three WAC games by a total of seven points last season, and lost by eight in a shootout against Fresno State. But losses are losses, and Nevada is 0-6 against Hawaii, Boise State and Fresno State over the last two seasons and it hasn’t beaten the Broncos since 1998 when the two teams were in the Big West.

This has to be the year the program turns a corner. It’s good enough to beat anyone in the league, but it not only has to learn how to close and win the tight games, but it has to get past the ugly New Mexico Bowl shutout loss to New Mexico to get its mojo back before dealing with Texas Tech and Missouri.

With decent experience returning and plenty of all-star talent on both sides of the ball, there's no reason the Pack can't be thrown into the discussion with Boise State and Fresno State as far as WAC title contenders, but the special teams have to be better, the defense has to be more of a rock, and the quarterback situation has to be settled.

It's not a bad situation considering both options are among the league's best quarterbacks, but it'll be a tough choice for the coaching staff between the mobile upside of sophomore Colin Kaepernick or the talented veteran Nick Graziano, who's coming off an injury.

The defense suffers some big losses, but the change in scheme and in the coaching staff should bring more production. There are some all-stars like DE Kevin Basped and LB Josh Mauga to build around, and by the end of the season this might be the WAC's best defense.

This is as good a team as any in the WAC with as much firepower on offense and instant improvements on defense to win the championship. Now the team has to believe it can really do it.


What to watch for on offense: The running game. While the main storyline is the quarterback situation, the running game will control the offense with 1,420-yard back Luke Lippincott running behind a dominant line. If Kaepernick, who ran for 593 yards, is under center, the Wolf Pack running game will be the best in the WAC again.

What to watch for on defense: The 4-3. The 3-4 didn't work out as well as expected with way too much inconsistency when it came to getting into the backfield. New defensive coordinator Nigel Burton's goal is to help out the suspect secondary by getting the quarterbacks hit early and often. If you can't stop the pass, you're in trouble in WAC play. Nevada, compared to other league teams, wasn't bad, but 241 yards per game are still too many.

The team will be far better if … it can bend more without breaking. The defense gave up 415 yards per game, which is a lot, but it's not that bad for the WAC, and considering the offense was 11th in the nation, it wasn't that big a problem. However, the defense almost never held tough when it had to. Turnovers and big pass plays were a problem, but if Nevada starts winning the turnover margin and starts generating more pressure on the quarterback, things should quickly change.

The Schedule:
The schedule is just good enough to be in the WAC race until the end, but it's just tough enough to prevent a huge season. It's asking a lot to beat a loaded, as in top-ten ranked loaded, Texas Tech and win a trip to Missouri early on, but everything else is winnable including key WAC road trips to Hawaii and Fresno State. Road games at UNLV, Idaho and Louisiana Tech have to be wins if the Wolf Pack plans to be a strong bowl team, while playing San Jose State and Boise State in back to back November home games will be the key to the season.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Luke Lippincott. He would've been the WAC Player of the Year if Colt Brennan hadn't cranked out a Heisman-caliber season. He followed up a strong sophomore season with 1,420 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he also caught 26 passes for 295 yards and three scores. A steady workhorse, he can handle 30 touches a game without a problem.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Joshua Mauga. Ezra Butler was the signature star on the defense over the past few seasons, but the is Mauga's defense now. He was on his way to a huge season before tearing up his knee, and now he needs to come back at 100% to be the leader of a front seven that's going back to the 4-3 and needs a rock to revolve around.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DE/LB Dontay Moch. The Pack defense technically will switch to a 4-3, but Moch is an outside linebacker who'll line up on the end. Not only does the 220-pounder have to hold up, despite being woefully undersized for the line, but he'll be asked to be a dangerous pass rusher and the replacement for Ezra Butler.

The season will be a success if ... Nevada finishes second in the WAC. While the team is good enough to win a title, the road games at Hawaii, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech could end those hopes. However, being the champion is a realistic goal, and if the Pack falls just short and finishes second, that would be a more than successful year.

Key game: Nov. 7 at Fresno State. While the Bulldogs might be the best in the league, Nevada gets a week off before the road trip. When in Fresno, and then the finishing kick against San Jose State, Boise State and at Louisiana Tech takes on a whole new look.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth down conversions: Nevada 15 of 22 (68%) – Opponents 8 of 17 (47%)
- Penalties: Nevada 93 for 732 yards – Opponents 74 for 601 yards
- Punt return average: Opponents 10.5 yards – Nevada 7.1 yards