By Charles Jay
Usually, we are kind of hesitant to lay a lot of lumber in these bowl games, so it is with a lot of extra reflection that we take a look at the proposition in front of us as part of Friday’s WagerWAR. The Nevada Wolf Pack, who have taken some horrific beatings this season, find themselves with an opportunity to redeem themselves for shameful effort all the way around against UNLV in their traditional rivalry game. They’ll face the Ohio Bobcats, who suffered for losses by three points or less, in the Idaho Potato Bowl, taking place on the blue carpet at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, which is obviously the home of the Boise State Broncos. It will start at 3:30 PM ET on Friday, and we should add that if you are signed up with the folks at BetAnySports, you actually get to place wagers on this game while it is in progress, thanks to what they have available with two different live betting options – Sports Betting Ultra and Live Betting Extra.
It may seem like coach Frank Solich has been around forever at Ohio, but if you go back for enough, you remember that he is the guy who succeeded Tom Osborne at Nebraska and brought the team into a national title game, which it lost 37-14 to Miami. So as you might expect, the emphasizes a power running game, and he has a quarterback who is really good at pulling it off. But Nathan Rourke, who gained 780 yards on the ground the season, is not a one-trick pony. Rather, he’s a guy who can take advantage of the weapons that are available to him in his air attack. Rourke finished in the top 25 in the nation in passing efficiency and he was able to produce some big plays evidenced by his 14 yards per completion, which was 20th best nationally. So Ohio doesn’t exactly do the “dink-and-dunk.” And they have a tremendous newcomer in redshirt freshman O’Shaan Allison, who gained 823 yards. Obviously the key to stopping this offense is to trip them up on first or second down, because they converted a whopping 51.6% of their third downs, a percentage that leaves them behind only Ohio State, Alabama and Air Force and actually right ahead of LSU. So make no mistake about it; at this level, Ohio is a team it’s really going to be able to move the football.
Where this becomes problematic for Nevada is that things are really shuffling around on the defensive side. When they lost their regular-season finale to UNLV in the battle for the Fremont Cannon, things got so heated at the end that a melee broke out, and there were players suspended on both sides. For the Nevada team, which is all that really matters for purposes of this conversation, that meant two members of the secondary – corner Daniel Brown and safety Austin Arnold – will be unavailable, as will Hausia Sekona, who anchors the defensive line from the nose tackle position. Linebacker Gabe Sewell wil sit through a first half suspension. And separate from this, another linebacker, Lucas Weber, could be out of action if he hasn’t recovered enough from his broken ankle.
Head coach Jay Norvell wasn’t at all happy with the regression defensive unit was making, and so he let go of coordinator Jeff Casteel, meaning that it will be the interim guy, Jody Sears and a “committee” handling the duties for the stop unit.
In the odds we are using at WagerWAR for the Idaho Potato Bowl game, Ohio finds itself laying a lot of points:
Ohio Bobcats -9.5
Nevada Wolf Pack +.5
Over 62 points -110
Under two points -110
Also, we want you to keep in mind that if you are a BetAnySports customer, you can go there and sidestep having to lay -110 on football games. That’s through “reduced juice,” and it is well worth checking out!
When you examine what Nevada has done this season, from the long view, you’ll see that the averaged only 21.3 points per game and gave up 32.1. So that is an 11-point per-game deficit for team that finished 7-5 (6-6 against the points). They scored 29 offensive touchdowns and gave up 49. So it’s a wonder how they ever got to the post-season, right? Well, they did take a horrible 77-6 in beating at the hands of Oregon. But they also got waxed by a few programs against whom they didn’t appear to be punching far above their weight – they fell to Hawaii by 51 points, Wyoming by 28 and Utah State by 26. On the plus side, they did get a field-goal at the gun from freshman Brandon Talton to beat Purdue in the season opener, and later defeated San Diego State.
The progress of redshirt freshman quarterback Carson Strong also has to be noted. He averaged slightly below six yards per pass attempt, but through the last five games his numbers really picked up, as he completed 66% for 1451 yards (7.6 yards per pass) and was intercepted only twice in 191 attempts. Of course, some of the opposition wasn’t as strong (pardon the pun). Injury problems that it had hit the wide receiver core; Kaleb Fossum, the best guy they have, is out of this game with a shoulder injury. Romeo Doubs also has a shoulder injury but is a possibility for this game, as he’s listed as questionable. Statistically, the leading receiver is Elijah Cooks (729 yards). And while they did show a running game in the person of Toa Taua (759 yards), as a team they averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.
That deserves to be expanded upon. Before a game with New Mexico, Norvell, who used to be the co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and had previously worked with Peyton Manning as an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts, made the decision to get more involved with the offense and took over play-calling duties from Matt Mumme. Now you must understand that he is the son of Hal Mumme, the originator of the “Air Raid” offense, and thus the Nevada passing game is designed to be wide-open. Norvell wanted to turn down the volume in an effort to limit turnovers and hold on to the ball longer. It was a change, to be sure, and maybe some of it worked. Scoring went up seven points a game, but the opponents weren’t as tough. And the consistency wasn’t necessarily there. Perhaps the extra prep time will help. But there was some division here in terms of philosophy.
Defensively, Ohio had to go without coordinator Jimmy Burrow (father of Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow) for the first time in fifteen years because of his retirement. They did not create a lot of turnovers (five interceptions, for example) and allowed 4.8 yards a carry. So this is admittedly a potential soft spot. But their running game is going to prevail here, because Nevada failed to stop anybody who could run with a lot of proficiency. Sure, Nevada, a member of the Mountain West, has played before on the “Blue Carpet,” while the closest anyone on the Ohio side has gotten to it is the current D-coordinator, Ron Collins, who worked at Boise State between 2001-05. But the fundamentals tell us that the Bobcats should be able to exploit Nevada’s stop unit. We will lay the points.
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