Joe Santoro | Despite odds, Pack could give UCLA a run
The oddsmakers believe that the Nevada Wolf Pack football team doesn’t have a chance to beat the UCLA Bruins on Aug. 31 in the Rose Bowl. Depending on what sports book you walk into, the Pack is a 17- to 20-point underdog in its season opener in two weeks. Grab the points. Anything more than 14 points is just a Pac-12 bias. UCLA obviously deserves to be a clear favorite, especially at home, but the Pack could go to Pasadena and ruin the Bruins’ season.
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The quarterback matchup between UCLA’s Brett Hundley and the Pack’s Cody Fajardo could be memorable. Last year they threw for more than 6,500 yards and nearly 50 touchdowns combined. Fajardo is a Southern California kid and grew up dreaming of playing in the Rose Bowl. He’s going to show USC and UCLA it made a huge mistake by not grabbing him out of high school. Yahoo.com recently did a story on what it believes are the Top 25 most intriguing quarterbacks in the nation and they failed to even mention Fajardo (Hundley was on the list). Fajardo, who just might be the best-kept secret in college football, will emerge as a national star on Aug. 31.
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Of course, the overall success of the Wolf Pack football team this season hinges on whether or not it can actually stop someone. The defense was abysmal last year and it turned a team that should have gone 10-3 into a 7-6 disappointment. With a tougher schedule this year, if the defense plays like it did last year the Pack is likely looking at a 5-7 season at best. Take away the defensive front and the Pack defense is filled with freshmen and inexperience. Hundley could jump to the top of the Heisman list by Sept. 1. But still take those 19 or 20 points. This one looks like a 55-54 triple overtime track meet.
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It might be time Major League Baseball considers killing off two teams. There is obviously not enough big league talent to fill 30 teams. Get rid of the Florida Marlins and Houston Astros. The Marlins don’t have any fans or money and wouldn’t be missed at all. The once-proud Astros are 150-293 over the last three seasons and, well, nobody even knows what league they play in anymore. Major League Baseball is nothing more than Triple-A baseball with a handful of stars thrown in for flavor. There are too many teams, too many playoff teams, not enough pitchers and half the country stops paying attention once football training camps open up in mid-August. It’s time to cut the fat.
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The difference between football players and baseball players? Former major league baseball player Jack Clark said on his St. Louis radio show recently that former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has used performance enhancing drugs. Pujols then threatened to sue Clark and the radio station and the radio station then fired Clark and his co-host. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said this week that the rumors that he used human growth hormone is a compliment and he is flattered by the accusations. Baseball players and their fans consider performance enhancing drugs as a sin. Football players and their fans consider them as much a part of the sport as shoulder pads and cheerleaders.
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Why, exactly, is the Wolf Pack men’s basketball team in Italy for 10 days playing meaningless exhibition games against teams that wouldn’t win a Nevada high school state title? When is the university going to take a dozen or so political science or history majors to Italy for a free 10-day trip? You don’t have to join the navy to see the world anymore. All you have to do is play for the worst basketball team in the Mountain West. The trip, though, does serve a purpose. It shows Pack players what post-college life can be like, traveling around Europe and playing pro hoops against guys who couldn’t get on the court in pick-up games in Southern California in the summer.
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Does it seem like NFL players are getting hurt and suffering more injuries in training camp these days? Don’t believe it. All of the silly injury reports that seem to occur every 90 seconds or so are due to Twitter, the internet and 24-hour sports channels that feel the need to flood our football consciences with every meaningless detail that takes place. The sports media feels pressure now to report everything its sees, hears, touches or eats the moment it occurs. Tom Brady goes down in a summer scrimmage and all of New England goes into mourning. Every twisted ankle in training camp is treated like Jack Tatum drilling Darryl Stingley. Here’s the deal: Players get hurt in training camp. They live to practice another day. Relax.
Joe Santoro writes a weekly sports column and covers University of Nevada sports for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.
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