Nevada Wolf Pack (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Oregon Ducks (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, College Football Week 2, Saturday, September 10, 2011, Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon
by Scotty L, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Nev +27/UO -27
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The Nevada Wolf Pack travel to West to face the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. Oregon was in tough against LSU in a rare opening week matchup of top-five teams. Turnovers really killed the Ducks chancesleading to 20 LSU points. The absence of standout cornerback/returner Cliff Harris was felt, both in the secondary and in special teams. A botched return led to a LSU touchdown and the Oregon secondary was compromised throughout the contest.
One could expect a good and irritated Oregon squad this week, facing Nevada. The Wolf Pack has their work cut out, having lost a slew of big playmakers that helped them enjoy their finest season ever (13-1) in 2010. Its difficult to not have faith in head coach Chris Aultwho has led this team to 6 straight bowl berths. It still remains to be seen how well they plug up the holes that now exist.
A big part of Nevadas success was attributed to standout QB Colin Kaepernick, who is now gone. Enter Tyler Lantripa talented but very differently skilled quarterback than his predecessor. He has a good arm and can move a bit, but in no way is the pass-run threat that Kaepernick represented. If he falters, there is a robust pack of talented quarterbacks in the wingsled by talented freshman Cody Fajardo. We will have to see how it all shakes out.
The loss of excellent Vai Taua, who rushed for 1600 yards, also leaves a gaping hole. RB Mike Ball certainly has talent, but he has not yet shown that he can handle a heavy workload, so question marks loom. Tauas back-up Lampford Mark tore his ACL, so well wait and see what he can bring to the table. WR Brandon Wimberly, shot in the abdomen in the off-season, also leaves a hole at receiver.
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Defensively, the Wolf Pack offers good and bad news. Their front line lost 2 key players. Players will need to step up and fill those gaps, but opponents should expect at least a slightly less-fearsome line than last season. Still, with All-WAC talent like CB Isaiah Frey and LB John Michael-Johnson returning, this defense should acquit itself well, at least in the WAC. Whether they can contain the powerful Oregon offense might be another issue altogether.
While the big guns for Oregon failed for the most part against LSU, there is no reason why they shouldnt run over most defenses this season. QB Darron Thomas didnt have his best game. Heisman candidate LaMichael James only ran for 54 yards on 18 rushes. WR Jeff Maehl is gone and his reliability was missed in week one. There seems to be little reason, however, to jump ship on this offense based on one game. This is still an ultra-potent offense that could conceivably run the table and be in the mix by seasons end.
The Ducks have lost 2 consecutive games going back to last seasons BCS title-game loss. In both games, they appeared to be troubled by more physical opponents. That problem doesnt seem likely to happen again this week. Nevada is a fine team, but hardly capable of that SEC-type physicality that has troubled the Ducks in their last two contests. The recent lack of success for Oregon can produce one of two results. There is a chance they will suffer some emotional deflation. A team many were heralding as a possible national champion now faces an unenviable rebuilding process. They might not even get back to the point where a national title is in the picture. And if it is, its going to take a whole season to get back to that spot.
But rather than a crestfallen and discouraged Oregon team, one should expect to see a fired-up squad. They are back home with a far more manageable opponent. This is a game where Oregon could possibly exorcise the demons of their past two games and turn it loose on the Wolf Pack. We dont exactly know what we have with Nevada yet, especially with this being their first game of the season. But my guess is they will be a depreciated version of last years teamstill good, but probably ill-equipped to handle a team on Oregons level.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Nevada is in a tough spot. Depleted by personnel losses in the off-season, they could struggle, particularly at the quarterback and running back positions. Their defense, also suffering from player departures, will be one step behind the electric Oregon offense. Nevada will not only be on the road with question marks surrounding their team, but will also be in the face of the frothing Oregon throng in Eugeneone of the toughest road propositions in the nation. Look for a sharper performance from Oregon this week, as they pound the Wolf Pack en route to a resounding victory. Take the Oregon Ducks minus 27 points.
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