Chris Ault is Nevada football. He helped shepherd the program into D1-A and found continued success where others could not. He also helped shepherd football into a new era by inventing the pistol formation and the middle screen and assisting in creating the current overtime rules. When Nevada has not been coached by Ault they've failed to find success. Ault has retired and Brian Polian has taken the reins with big shoes to fill. Polian looks to be a good coach and should get Nevada on track, but this might not be the year.
3:30 | ESPN | Line: -35
Nevada's Season so far...
Nevada hung tough with UCLA for a half in week 1 but the Bruins were too much for the Wolf Pack and Nevada lost 58-20. The 'Pack bounced back in week 2 taking down UC Davis 36-7 behind the accurate passing of Cody Fajardo.
v. Nevada's Defense
FSU should be able to do whatever it wants against the Wolf Pack defense. Last year Nevada struggled because of a young front seven. This year Nevada returns all 4 starters up front but will struggle due to a young secondary. The experience and talent up front will likely do enough this year for the Wolf Pack offense to punish teams but that's not likely to happen against FSU.
The Nevada defense is led by All-Mountain West DE Brock Hekking. Hekking could be the best pass rusher in the Mountain West and Nevada will need to get everything they can out of Hekking and Lenny Jones if they want to upset FSU. The interior for Nevada (Jack Reynoso and Jordan Hanson) is experienced but undersized and should not cause many problems for Stork, Matias and Reuben Carter in for Jackson. The lack of size up front for Nevada is one of the reasons they struggled against the run last year.
Another reason the 'Pack struggled against the run is questionable play from their linebackers. Jordan Dobrich looks to be a good talent but Nevada doesn't have the pieces to fill out their line backing core. The Wolf Pack run a cover-2 on defense but do not posses the kind of linebacker that can run with TEs. Nick O'Leary could have another good game by running straight all day.
Charles Garret returns as the lone starter for Nevada's secondary but he has switched from CB to SS. Bryson Keeton, also making a move from CB to S, holds the other safety spot. Nevada is hoping these upper class men have a calming effect as their DBs consist of underclassmen who are talented but inexperienced.
Nevada's defense plays like a lot of undermanned defenses play against Florida State: a soft zone, keeping everything in front, making the superior team execute slowly down the field over multi-play drives.
Expect FSU to maintain a good run/pass balance early on. Jameis Winston instantly became the talk of college football after the Pitt game but can he follow that up with more solid play or was it a flash in the pan? Spoiler: he can and will. The challenge for Winston will be patience. He cannot force the ball deep when it is not there against Nevada's coverage.
The larger problem for FSU might be the WRs duplicating their play. Lost in all the Winston hype is the incredible game FSU's wide outs had in all facets of the game. Have things clicked for Kelvin Benjamin? Early results are extremely positive.
If FSU establishes the run game and the short passing game, it can then open up the play action deep.
How much play will Karlos Williams get at RB? The Junior moved to RB in the bye week but how much of the offense has he picked up and how effective can he be after the switch? How healthy is James Wilder? Wilder hurt his shoulder during the Pitt game and was unable to finish it and has been seen in a precautionary sling. If FSU gets up big, expect Wilder to sit and rest.
FSU kept its offense pretty vanilla against Pitt, running Fisher's favorite route combinations, smash and Houston, for a large majority of its passing plays. However, the play book is deeper than that. FSU will likely reveal a bit more since they had an extra week to prepare but how much is the question. It's doubtful that FSU will run more of the option game against Nevada but it's certainly a possibility.
- more than 7.0 yards a play before garbage time (420 yards on 60 plays, 490 yards on 70 plays)
- No more than 1 turnover
- 75% or greater TDs in the red zone
v. Nevada's Offense
Here's where Nevada excels and why it is so fun to watch. Polian has smartly elected to keep Nevada's offense largely intact and it will certainly pay dividends for him in the years to come. Nevada perennially has an elite offense and this year will likely be no exception.
Junior QB Cody Fajardo is the latest incarnation of the talented and ultra-effective Nevada QB. Fajardo is likely the 2nd or 3rd most talented QB the Noles will face this year and fits the dynamic offense the Wolf Pack run to a T. Last year Fajardo ran for over 1,000 yards and passed for almost 3,000 yards while missing two games. FSU's retooled defense will really have to keep track of #17.
However, Fajardo's status is a bit up in the air, as he did not practice through Wednesday. Nevada does have a capable backup, but he won't present the same test as Fajardo.
Complicating things this year for Fajardo is the loss of TE Zach Sudfield who caught 45 passes for 598 yards. Nevada does have capable TEs in Kolby Arendse and Stephen Jeffers but neither is likely to match Sudfield's production. Thankfully Nevada does return their top WR in senior Brandon Wimberly and a good bit of talent in juniors Richy Turner and Aaron Bradley. The aerial attack of Nevada will be a good test for FSU's secondary which has the talent to match up but is playing only its second game in Jeremy Pruitt's defense. Fajardo is listed as day-to-day with a sprained knee so if he does go Nevada could depend more on the pass than normal. Backup Devin Combs started in a win against UNLV last year and played in garbage time in Nevada's win over UC Davis. He could be a good QB but the verdict is still out.
The running back position is very much plug-n-play for Nevada. Last year Stefphon Jerfferson gained 1,883 yards and bolted for the NFL. Jefferson went undrafted and was cut from the Titans roster but that just shows how RB friendly Nevada's system is. JUCO transfer Don Jackson gets the start for Nevada and will likely have a similar season to Jefferson's.
Nevada's offensive line is a bit of a mixed bag but the pistol formation helps compensate for mediocre line play by getting the QB off the line but still allowing for power running, quick hitters, and a potent option game. Tackle Joel Bitonio and center Matt Galas return for the 'Pack and could very well be all-Mountain West players by season's end. Unfortunately for Nevada, they have three new starters along the line in right tackle Kyle Roberts and guards Fred Lavulo (a DT at the start of fall camp) and Conner Talbott. Nevada does have good size up front but the inexperience could cause problems. If FSU gets good penetration up front with its DTs they can disrupt a good bit of the Nevada offense and allow the Nole LBs to fast flow to the ball.
Florida State struggled at times to line up correctly against Pitt but has had a week to fix those issues. Pay special attention to how fast the linebackers react to what they see. In a perfect world a defender would diagnose a defense and let muscle memory take over but FSU has not had time to develop that. How much closer are they?
This Nevada offense could certainly cause problems for FSU due to its experience and design and FSU's lack of game time in the new scheme but FSU's talent should shine through. This is very good practice for the Clemson game as both offenses are of similar design and pace. FSU needs to focus on getting lined up correctly and making the correct checks at the line. Do the upperclassmen take over and get others into the right position or are they still learning their own assignments and not able to pay attention to others. Expect the Seminoles to play much more nickel and dime than the Pitt game and expect this trend to continue until the Florida game.
- less than 4.5 yards/play before garbage time (270 on 60 plays, 315 on 70)
- Force 2 turnovers
- 50% or less TDs in the red zone
Brian Polian got the Nevada head coaching job after years of exceptional special teams coaching at multiple locations. Chase Tenpenny is a very good punter and could pin FSU deep while Colin Ditsworth is in his first year starting as Nevada's kicker. The Wolf Pack will have an above average return game like they do most years but FSU should be able to prevent any big returns based on talent and discipline. The Noles could stand for some improvement in coverage as Pitt gained more yards than they should and I think Robert Aguayo could get a bit more air on his kick offs, then again we've been spoiled with Dustin Hopkins. The same questions exist with Cason Beatty but that's a good thing since FSU didn't punt much against Pitt.
The Nevada offense can certainly provide a challenge for FSU's defense but the other side of the ball is completely different story. If this game is close it's because FSU has severely screwed up its offensive execution. The game could be a two score affair at the half but FSU should be able to pull away in the 3rd quarter if not earlier.
Florida State 51, Nevada 17 | Chance of winning: 98%