Posted: 12/24/2011 8:28:15 AM
This game might not be what is seems. First things first, let’s look at that
7-5 record for Nevada. Delving into the L’s, we see that 2 of those losses were
to Boise and Oregon, no shame there. There are probably about 115 other teams
in the nation that would also be 0-2 vs those juggernauts. That leaves 3 real
earned losses, a 1-point loss to Texas Tech in a shoot out (hello, its Texas
Tech), and a pair of consecutive 4-point losses to Louisiana Tech and Utah
State. LT and USU of course are bowling this season, TT just missed it at 5-7
but Nevada faced the Raiders early in the season, when they were still
beat-Oklahoma-good, before they were ravaged by injuries. Nevada led in the 4th
Q in all 3 games.
Vs TT, it was a 14 point lead midway through the 3rd. The Pack
almost managed to hang on for the W but gave up the game winning TD on a 4th
down desperation play with seconds left on the clock that got extended with a
Vs LT, it was a 17 point 4th Q lead that just evaporated. LT QB
Colby Cameron (who didn’t play with LT faced Southern Miss in Week 1) threw for
three 4th Q TDs.
Vs Utah State, the Pack had a lead most of the game only to see the Aggies
take a late lead in the 4th. Nevada had countered and was driving
inside the 10 for the winning score before an ill timed fumble by backup QB
Tyler Lantrip cost them the game (starting QB Cody Fajardo had been knocked out
of the game).
So yes, Nevada is technically a 5-loss team, but toss out the obvious
mismatches of Oregon and Boise and they hare preformed more like a 3-loss team,
and those 3 losses were all to bowl-quality teams, and in all 3 cases, Nevada
led most of the game. While it’s never a good thing to lose, I at least
wouldn’t call any of those 3 a bad loss.
Now let’s look at Southern Miss. Everyone will point to the CUSA
championship game vs Houston, but over the whole body of work the record is a
bit less impressive. 11-2, but the 2 losses to punchless Marshall and hapless
UAB are somewhat surprising.
Vs Marshall Southern Miss led early but let the Herd put up 23 unanswered
(including a safety!!!). Marshall was not very good on O or D this season, yet
they held Southern Miss to only 20 points.
Vs UAB the Blazers either had the lead or were tied most of the game,
putting up 425 yards of offense on Southern Miss. There were games this season
where UAB didn’t crack 200 yards of total offense (Literally, 2-11 Tulane held
UAB to 193 yards of offense, and Tulane is horrible).
OK, so the Marshall loss looks a lot better after their bowl win, but let’s
be honest, they still are not a very good team. And I would call the UAB an
outright bad loss. An inexcusable loss really.
The one common opponent was Louisiana Tech, but the Bulldogs were a vastly
different team in W12 when they beat Nevada (24-20) with Colby Cameron as QB
than they were in Week 1 when they lost to Southern Miss (17-19) during the
Nick Isham experiment.
So despite the absolute Win-Loss records, these 2 bodies of work are both
pretty similar, maybe even advantage Nevada.
Now let’s go inside the box.
Folks are going to point to the Southern Miss defense first, mainly because
of how they were really able to shutdown Houston but also for their impressive
3.2 YPC allowed this season.
First, let’s tackle the YPC. Conference USA is a pass-first and in some
cases pass-second and even pass-third kind of league. There are no real rushing
attacks in this league. When they did face a real rushing attack in Navy they
gave up 421 in the ground (Southern Miss still won because Navy cannot stop the
pass at all this season). Big deal you say? Navy runs on everyone you say?
Well, true, but the Middies had their highest rushing output this year against
Southern Miss for whatever that’s worth.
The only ‘normal’ offenses that feature any semblance of a running game
would be Virginia and SMU. Now yes it is true that Southern Miss won both of
those games but they did not exactly stop the run in either contest. Undersized
Perry Jones averaged 5.0 YPC for the Cavs and bruiser Zach Line averaged about
7.5. Nevada is averaging almost 5.3 YPC as a team, and the 3 main rushing
threats are even more potent than that: QB Fajardo averaging 5.6, RB Lampford
Mark is at 5.7 and backup RB Stephon Jefferson is at 6.1
I will put the rushing advantage with Nevada.
2nd, lets look at the pass D. The Eagles have been able to get wins in many
games thanks to a bend-but-make-the-big-play pass D that is great at forcing
turnovers in the middle of the field.