BYU (7-4) will enter this weekend coming off a disappointing loss against a Notre Dame (8-3) team that many thought BYU was going to beat. The Cougars were outplayed in the trenches on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and the offense was only able to muster 13 points despite four trips to the red zone. But the Cougars still have the chance to end the regular season with a victory when they travel to the home town of Kyle Van Noy (Reno) for a matchup with Mountain West opponent the Nevada Wolf Pack (4-7).
Nevada was able to halt a five game losing streak over the weekend when they knocked off San Jose State at home, which gave them just their 3rd win over an FBS opponent this season. The win improved their record to 4-7 on the season and 3-5 in conference play. This has been a difficult season for the Wolf Pack, as they will not be going to a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
On the surface it may seem like their isn't anything riding on this game, seeing as the Cougars have already locked up their bowl game, Nevada is already bowl ineligible, and there is no national ranking or conference race implications riding on the outcome of the game. Despite these facts, this game proves to be a great opportunity to send the seniors out with a victory if you're Nevada, and an opportunity for the Cougars to gain some momentum and confidence heading into a bowl game with a yet-to-be-determined Pac-12 opponent next month. Let's get to know the Wolf Pack a little better.
Nevada currently ranks 48th in the country when it comes to total offense. Their passing offense ranks 49th, and is led by junior quarterback Cody Fajardo. Fajardo has had an impressive career with Nevada so far. This season he has a 67 percent completion percentage thus far with 2,374 passing yards. His touchdown to interception ration is in an impressive 12/2.
Not only has he taken care of business through the air this season, but he has also rushed for 602 yards on 128 carries (an average of 4.7 yards per rush). Fajardo has always been known for his strength as a dual threat QB, and in 2011 he was named the "Best Running Quarterback in the WAC". Fajardo's ability to beat you on the ground will bring a different look to the Cougar defense than they have seen the past few weeks. He is coming off of a 104 yard rushing game against San Jose State.
Here's an example of Fajardo's dual threat ability and lightning quick speed.
Brandon Wimberly has proven to be Fajardo's favorite target so far this season with his 87 receptions, 872 yards, and seven touchdowns. Look for this senior wide receiver to have an impressive performance in what will be the final game of his collegiate career. Richy Turner and Aaron Bradley have also been dependable targets for Fajardo this season, with 638 and 463 yards respectively. The combination of Wimberly, Turner, and Bradley makes for one of the most talented receiving corps in the Mountain West Conference. Bradley did not play against San Jose State due to a hamstring injury, and is currently listed as questionable for the BYU game.
Click here to read the heartwarming story of Richy Turner overcoming adversity in life, and the special relationship between him and his grandmother.
Running back Kendall Brock has been the go to guy on the ground for the Wolf Pack this season. The 5'9" 195 lb junior has rushed for 756 yards this season, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Nevada's rushing offense ranks 44th in the country, as they are averaging 189 rushing yard per game.
Nevada has struggled greatly this year at stopping the run. They are giving up an average of 246 rushing yards per game, which ranks 117th in the country. Gap assignments seem to be the biggest problem of the Wolf Pack defense this season.
The interesting thing about their defense is how inconsistent it has been. For example, against Colorado State earlier this season they held CSU's star running back, Kapri Bibbs, to just 52 yards in the first half. This is an impressive defensive feat, as Bibbs is one of the nations top running backs. But in the second half, they let him go off for 260 yards and four touchdowns.
Their passing defense is a little bit better, but not by much. Giving up over 260 yards per game in the air ranks just 103rd in the nation. Overall, the Wolf Pack defense is giving up an average of 35 points per game. They have given up over 50 points three times this year.
How do they match-up with BYU?
It will be interesting to see how BYU responds after being punched in the mouth against Notre Dame. Nevada has a solid offense that is capable of putting up some points. But BYU's offensive weapons will be too much for the Wolf Pack defense to contain. Sporting one of the worst rushing defenses in the country, look for Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill to have huge games on the ground.
After being pushed around for four quarters by Notre Dame, the BYU offensive line will look to make a statement against Nevada. Look for the offensive line to play physical, and to create the necessary push and gaps for the Cougars to have a big game rushing the football. Look for both Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill to eclipse 100 yards on the ground in this game, as the Cougars finish up regular season play with a victory over the Wolf Pack enroute to an 8-4 record.
In addition to participating in the poll found below, be sure to comment and let us know how satisfied you are with the Cougar's season this year (assuming they beat Nevada). Is 8-4 what you expected? What losses were acceptable/unacceptable? (if there is such thing as an "acceptable loss"). What was the best win? Most exciting game? Give us your thoughts and analysis on the season.