2012 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in MWC)
Head Coach: Brian Polian (first time head coach)
Last Bowl Game: 2012 New Mexico Bowl: lost to Arizona 49-48
Stadium: Mackay Stadium in Reno, NV (capacity = 29,993)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 27th out of 55 mid-major teams
2013 Schedule Link
Out of Conference: 8/31 at UCLA, 9/7 vs UC Davis, 9/14 at FSU, 11/30 vs BYU
Toughest Conference Home Game: 11/16 vs San Jose St
Toughest Conference Road Games: 10/19 at Boise State, 11/2 at Fresno State, 10/4 at SDSU
2012 Statistics Link
Stat to Fear: opponents scored on 87.76% of red zone trips (9th in MWC), allowed 5.11 ypc (8th in MWC)
Stats to Cheer: had 256 plays of 10 or more yards (1st in MWC), converted on 52.85% of third downs (1st in MWC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 65th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 6, Defense: 5, Special Teams: 0
Key Defensive Returnees: DE Brock Hekking (71 tackles, 7 sacks), DE Lenny Jones (37 tackles, 5 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Cody Fajardo (2786 yds pass, 20 TD, 9 INT, 1121 yds rush, 12 rush TD), WR Brandon Wimberly (70 rec), WR Richy Turner (60 rec), WR Aaron Bradley (45 rec)
In his second run with the Nevada Wolf Pack, Chris Ault averaged 7.8 wins per year and only had two losing seasons (2004 and 2007). Ault gives way to Brian Polian. Polian has traveled around a bit having coached at Buffalo, UCF, Notre Dame, Stanford and Texas A&M but was mainly a special teams guy (and recruiter) and was never a coordinator. OC Nick Rolovich will stay on after a flirtation with Temple. That's good news as Polian won't have to install a new offensive system. Scott Hazelton (North Dakota State) will take over the defense.
The Wolf Pack returns Cody Fajardo at QB and he's a good fit for the pistol offense. Fajardo threw for 20 TDs and ran for 12 last season. He will be a handful but Nevada must find a replacement for Stefphon Jefferson (1881 yards). Look for JUCO transfer Don Jackson to be given a shot early in the season. The Wolf Pack must replace their TE (Zach Sudfield) but they do return Richy Turner (60 receptions) and Aaron Bradley (45 rec) at receiver. They also got a boost in January when leading receiver Brandon Wimberly was granted an sixth year of eligibility. The OL loses their top two linemen and returns just two starters and three linemen with starting experience.
Nevada had the second worst defense in the MWC in terms of points allowed and was seventh in total defense. The DL is experienced as they return their top five players from last season. They gave up 5.11 ypc last year so they will need to do much better against the run this season. The Wolf Pack lose their top four LBs so there will be a huge turnover with this unit. Keep an eye on Ian Seau, Junior's nephew, he's a JUCO LB and one of Nevada's top recruits this past season. The secondary is also gutted as they lose their top three players. The back end of the defensive will be very important for Nevada as they must replace a lot of talent and the returning talent on the defensive line was good at times but far from good overall.
The schedule is a pretty tough one for the Wolf Pack. they face UCLA, FSU and BYU out of conference so there is only one non-conference freebie on the schedule (UC Davis). They get the toughest conference foes on the road (Boise State, SDSU and Fresno State) but maybe that's a good thing. The swing games look like Air Force and San Jose State. With Ault last season (and an easier schedule) the Wolf Pack went 7-6 but fell apart down the stretch losing five of their last six. This season, I think they will struggle to become bowl eligible because of the stiff out of conference schedule. I see Nevada at 5-7 but with some luck (or some players stepping up) they could go bowling.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:
C-USA- ECU, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulsa, Tulane, UAB, UTEP, UTSA
MAC- Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, EMU, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo,UMass, WMU