College Football Preview: Nevada Wolf Pack at California Golden Bears

Nevada Wolf Pack at California Golden Bears
Saturday, September 1, 2012, 3:00 pm Eastern, TV: Pac 12 Network
Memorial Stadium – Berkeley, California
Opening Line: Cal -11
Current Line: Cal -11 1/2
Opening Total: 54
Current Total: 57
Opening Money Line: Cal -410 / Nevada +340
Current Money Line: Cal -410 / Nevada +340

California is an 11.5 point favorite against Nevada Saturday.

The Nevada Wolf Pack and California Golden Bears meet for the 26th time Saturday in the season opener for both teams. Cal leads the series 22-2-1, but Nevada won the last meeting in Reno 52-31 in 2010. Despite their campuses being roughly 200 miles from each other, this is only the third meeting between the Wolf Pack and Golden Bears since 1934.

Nevada is coached by Chris Ault. The Wolf Pack finished 7-6 last year in their final season in the WAC. They started off 1-3 with a brutal four game road trip against Oregon, San Jose St, Texas Tech, and Boise St. The Wolf pack beat only San Jose St, in that stretch. Nevada then won 5 games in row against lesser competition, before losing 3 of their last 4 games to Louisiana Tech, Utah St, and Southern Miss in the Hawaii Bowl. All three of those losses were by 7 points or less. This year Nevada moves to the Mountain West along with Hawaii and Fresno St.The Wolf Pack were 5-7-1 ATS last year and the total was 6-7.

California finished 7-6 last year, under coach Jeff Tedford. The Golden Bears won their first 3 games, then lost 3 in a row to Washington, Oregon, and USC. They went 4-3 the rest of the way including a 21-10 loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl. The best wins were over bowl teams Utah and Arizona St. Cal had a narrow 31-28 loss to rival Stanford. The game against Nevada will be the first true home game for Cal since November of 2010, as Memorial Stadium was being renovated last year. Cal had to play all of their home games in AT&T Park where the San Francisco Giants play baseball.The Golden Bears were 7-5 ATS and the total was 5-7 last year.

Nevada returns 15 starters and should contend with Boise St for the Mountain West title. Ault created the famed pistol offense that has become so trendy around the country. Sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo had over 2,400 combined passing and rushing yards with 17 touchdowns (11 rushing) and 6 interceptions. Running back Stefphon Jefferson will be the feature back after he had 70 carries, 429 yards, and 5 touchdowns.

The defense allowed 25.2 points a game last year. Key returning players include safety Duke Williams and defensive tackle Jack Reynoso. Depth could be an issue, as the Wolf pack are thin at several positions on defense.

Tedford is only 36-28 in his last 5 seasons at Cal. Another mediocre season could cost him his job. Quarterback Zach Maynard, a one time transfer from Buffalo, was much improved at the end of the season. He threw 5 touchdowns and only 2 picks in the final 5 games of the season. Overall, Maynard threw for just under 3,000 yards with 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also had 4 rushing touchdowns. Receiver Keenan Allen had 98 catches, 1,343 yards, and 6 touchdowns. He was All-Pac 12 last year. Running back Isi Sofele rushed for over 1,300 yards with 10 touchdowns last year.

Cal led the Pac 12 in total and passing defense for the second year in a row last season. Safety Josh Hill and corners Marc Anthony and Steve Williams have combined for 91 games and 58 starts in their careers.

Nevada is 1-5-1 ATS overall, and in non-conference games. Cal is 21-8 ATS in home games, 12-5 in September games, 3-7 against Mountain West teams, 4-1 overall and on grass.

This seems like a  lot of points for a game between a middling Pac 12 team, and one of the top teams from the best of the non-BCS conferences. I think Cal wins but by a touchdown or less.

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