September 1, 2012; Berkeley, CA, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack head coach Chris Ault celebrates after the game against the California Golden Bears at Memorial Stadium. The Wolf Pack defeated the Golden Bears 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Returning for another year is our Bulls Recon series, where we seek out another blogger to learn more about our football and basketball opponents. Although Nevada doesn't have its own blog on SB Nation, it is represented by Mountain West Connection, which does a great job covering the Wolf Pack's new conference from top to bottom. I sent a few questions to Jeremy Mauss, the manager of the site, about Nevada, the Pistol, Chris Ault, and the aborted Mount USA plan. Here are his answers:
1. The last time Nevada beat California, they ended up winning the WAC and finished near the top 10. Does this year's Wolf Pack team have that kind of potential? Are expectations going up in Reno after Saturday's win?
I don't think they are that good since they do not have Colin Kaepernick running the show, but Cody Fajardo is following in his footsteps and is a similar type quarterback who can run and throw very well. I could see them finishing in the top 15, because their schedule lays out perfectly for them by playing all the tough games at home which include South Florida, and then expected bowl teams from the Mountain West in Boise State, Wyoming, Fresno State and San Diego State.
After looking at their schedule I have said for the past few weeks that if Nevada gets past Cal on the road and South Florida at home, then they will have a very good chance at going undefeated. If they do win on Saturday the expectations by fans will likely be focused on earning a BCS bid, because they will be 2-0 against BCS teams.
2. A lot of teams have Pistol packages, including USF, but Nevada is still the only team that uses it for their entire offense. What extra advantages are there for running every play in the Pistol, rather than dabbling in it?
They run it better then teams that use it part-time or as a change of pace. We all saw how Rick Neuheisel forced Norm Chow to use the Pistol in their offense to throw teams off guard, and that failed miserably. In the Pistol, Nevada can run all the plays they would if they were under center or in shotgun exclusively. A halfback dive, play action, a pass, or an option can all be done from the pistol, and it makes it harder to defend since the formation gives away very little as to what the actual play will be.
3. Everyone always asks about Nevada's offense, but what about their defense? What is their MO?
They are essentially an average defense -- they are not great or terrible at any aspect on defense. They did, however, lose James-Michael Johnson to the NFL, as well as their defensive coordinator who left to take the same position with Wisconsin. The secondary is the strength of the defense, with three returning starters who were named to the All-WAC team in safeties Duke Williams and Marlon Johnson, as well as corner Khalid Wooten. Each could have a shot to be named to the All-Mountain West team this year.
4. Chris Ault is already in the College Football Hall of Fame and he pretty much is Nevada football. How long does he want to keep it going? Also, does Nevada become the conference torch-bearer after Boise State and San Diego State leave?
Not sure how much longer he will coach, he does turn 66 late in the season. I would say at least a few more years or until sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo graduates, but I don't think anyone knows for sure.
I think Nevada can be the class of the league alongside Wyoming and Fresno State with those other teams leaving, but the edge would go to Nevada since they have been the most consistent team over the past five years.
5. So is Mount USA officially dead? I thought it was at least as crazy/fascinating as SUNBEAST, except real.
Yes, and I am so glad that it did not go through. The idea was awful from the get-go with the idea of the Mountain West and Conference USA champs squaring off for a BCS bowl game. No, really, that is what they wanted to do. Plus, they wanted to earn multiple auto-bids for hoops which also was a laughter. This thing was never organized, because when they made the announcement every question was followed by "we need to get NCAA approval" or "it is in the works." So I am happy this did not happen.
Thanks to Jeremy for helping us out. Make sure to visit Mountain West Connection for more on the Wolf Pack, and for coverage of our future Big East conference mates, Boise State and San Diego State.