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1,000 Words: Game-by-game predictions for Nevada's 2019 season

Brendan O'Leary-Orange
Brendan O'Leary-Orange celebrates a touchdown last season. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

Nevada Sports Net columnist Chris Murray is known to be a bit wordy, so we're giving him 1,000 words (but no more than that) to share his thoughts from the week that was in the world of sports.

* THE NEVADA FOOTBALL TEAM kicks off its season Friday night against Purdue with a four-win margin of outcomes in my mind. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Wolf Pack went 5-7. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Wolf Pack went 9-3. That’s the range. Anywhere from five wins to nine wins seems plausible. Of course, five wins would be a huge disappointment after winning eight, including a bowl, last season. Winning nine games, meanwhile, would be a huge step in the right direction as it would likely include a MW West Division title. What will the final outcome be? Here are my game-by-game predictions.

* vs. PURDUE: While you could argue either for or against starting the season with a Power 5 foe, this is a winnable game versus a Big Ten opponent. If Nevada, an 11-point underdog, does upset the Boilermakers, it will likely be in store for a strong season. This is one of those games that will swing Nevada to the top or bottom of our win range. Final score: 33-27, Loss. Record to date: 0-1

* at OREGON: This is the most difficult game on the schedule. Oregon has an elite quarterback in Justin Herbert and excellent talent on defense. Add a massive home-field advantage and it’s hard to see Nevada keeping this game in single-digits let alone coming out victorious. The Ducks are more banged up that your average team at this stage, but I’ll take them big. Final score: 40-21, Loss. Record to date: 0-2

* vs. WEBER STATE: Weber State is the opponent for Nevada’s annual FCS game. The Wildcats enter the season in the preseason top 10, so they’re a quality FCS opponent, but the Wolf Pack should be done with struggling against FCS opponents (an overtime win over Cal Poly in 2016 and a loss to Idaho State in 2017). We’ll pick Nevada to roll in this one. Final score: 42-24, Win. Record to date: 1-2

* at UTEP: UTEP is 1-23 over the last two seasons with the lone win coming last year over Rice (the Miners lost to FCS foe Northern Arizona by 20). While UTEP should be improved, this is one of the easiest games on Nevada’s schedule, and it shouldn’t be a major issue. The Wolf Pack is 3-9 on the road under Norvell, but played a lot better away from Mackay last year. Final score: 38-21, Win. Record to date: 2-2

* vs. HAWAII: The Rainbow Warriors looked good in their season opener, a 45-38 win over Arizona, but that won’t change my pick. Hawaii’s offense is talented, as is quarterback Cole McDonald, and the Rainbow Warriors are the most experienced squad in the league. But they tend to struggle on the road and have been shellacking by Nevada the last two years. Final score: 35-31, Win. Record to date: 3-2, 1-0 MW

* vs. SAN JOSE STATE: If you lose to SJSU at home, you don’t make a bowl, so Nevada clearly must win this one, and I think it will. The Wolf Pack really needs to go 3-1 or better in this four-game stretch (Weber State, UTEP, Hawaii, SJSU), which is by far the easiest portion of the season, to make it to the postseason. Hawaii and SJSU, both games at home, offer a soft opening to the MW slate. Final score: 37-20, Win. Record to date: 4-2, 2-0 MW

* at UTAH STATE: Utah State is an interesting team because it has an elite quarterback (Jordan Love) surrounded by a new supporting cast and good defensive talent but a new coaching staff (former-coach-turned-current-coach Gary Andersen). The Aggies' season could turn in a number of directions, but Nevada should be a pretty decisive underdog in this game. Final score: 35-24, Loss. Record to date: 4-3, 2-1 MW

* at WYOMING: This game marks the truest coin toss on the schedule as Wyoming is a slightly lesser team in quality than Nevada but will be at home, making this contest a 50-50 proposition. The Cowboys’ offense shouldn’t be great and the team lost a lot of talent from the defense as well as coordinator Scottie Hazelton, who went to Kansas State. I’ll take Nevada close. Final score: 24-21, Win. Record to date: 5-3, 3-1 MW

* vs. NEW MEXICO: If we’re 100 percent correct with our guesses to this point, this game would be for bowl eligibility. New Mexico will test your run defense, but the Wolf Pack made major improvements there last season and should be able to solidify those gains with a solid defensive line and good linebacker corps (the question marks are in the secondary). I see an easy victory. Final score: 35-20, Win. Record to date: 6-3, 4-1 MW

* at SAN DIEGO STATE: I’m not sure what to expect from SDSU, which has been a power program in the MW but endured a rough second half last season. The Aztecs’ defense should be excellent; the questions come on offense. Nevada is 2-5 against SDSU since moving to the MW in 2012, so this matchup has typically favored the Aztecs, but Nevada has closed that gap. Final score: 27-21, Loss. Record to date: 6-4, 4-2 MW

* at FRESNO STATE: The Bulldogs are the prohibitive favorite to win the West Division, but this game could determine who comes out on top. Fresno State has built back its winning culture and has excellent coaching, but question marks litter the roster. The fact this game comes later in the season helps the Bulldogs, who will be well experienced by this point. Final score: 28-20, Loss. Record to date: 6-5, 4-3 MW

* vs. UNLV: The biggest game of the season is the last one. The Fremont Cannon will be on the line, but a divisional title and job security for Rebels coach Tony Sanchez might be, too. The Wolf Pack lost a 23-0 lead in a bitter defeat last season, so the cannon will be red at the start of the game. I expect it to be blue by the end of the year. Final score: 35-28, Win. Record to date: 7-5, 5-3 MW

* FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL: If Nevada goes 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the MW, it most likely won't win the division but will be bowl eligible. We’ll put the Wolf Pack in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against MAC school Western Michigan, which is projected to finish second in the West Division. Final score: 31-28, Loss. Record to date: 7-6

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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