The Wolf Pack open up the 2023 season in Los Angeles as the face off against the USC Trojans
Nevada kicks off 2023 on the road against #6 USC
WEEK 1: Nevada Wolf Pack (0-0) vs #6 USC Trojans (1-0)
WHEN: Saturday, September 2nd-3:30PM PT/4:30PM MT
WHERE: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
TV: Pac-12 Network (Stream the Pac-12 Network on Fubo and click the link here for a free trial)
RADIO: Nevada is on 105.7 KOZZ in Reno and USC is on 790 KABC in Los Angeles
SERIES RECORD: USC leads the all time series 5-0. The last meeting between USC and Nevada was back on November 9th 1929 when USC won 66-0. But the Wolf Pack did make history as they were the first Nevada team to travel to LA to face USC by flight. I can’t image the flight back to Reno from LA was fun after that beatdown by USC.
ODDS: USC (-38.0)
SP+ PROJECTION: USC by 37.7
FEI PROJECTION: USC by 27.7
The Nevada Wolf Pack open up the 2023 season on the road against the #6 USC Trojans.
The Wolf Pack will look to snap a 10 game losing streak by trying to knock off the Trojans and give second year head coach Ken Wilson a hell of a feather in his cap by knocking off USC.
To say that is going to be a tall task to defeat the Trojans in LA is probably an insult to tall tasks. Tall tasks are climbing Mt. Everest, swimming the English Channel or enduring a whole month of college football realignment talk without wanting to throw the decision makers of the sport into the Gulf of Mexico.
Correction on that last tall task, it isn’t much of a tall task because anyone who truly loves college football wants to launch the decision makers into the Gulf of Mexico, but I digress.
Can the Wolf Pack pull off the upset and defeat the Trojans in LA? Here are my three keys and a prediction for Nevada vs USC.
Establish the running game early and use it often.
The Wolf Pack run offense was like the entire Wolf Pack offense in 2022: An unending nightmare of trash. The Wolf Pack ranked in the triple digits nationally in rushing yards per game and rushing yards per attempt. When it comes to the advanced stats like Football Outsiders, the Wolf Pack rush offense was still bad.
Bottom line is that Nevada needs to improve on offense and especially improve its rush offense. The Wolf Pack must attempt to establish the run game early against USC. Nevada must utilize the talents of running backs Sean Dollars, Ashton Hayes and even QB Brendon Lewis to get the run game going.
Last week against San Jose State, USC gave up 198 rushing yards at 7.3 yards per attempt. The Wolf Pack must get the run game going early and often if they are even going to compete against USC. Or be ready to be taken to the woodshed by the Trojans.
Try to limit USC passing game
Trying to limit Caleb Williams and the Trojan passing attack is like trying to stop it from being hot in the Summer, it is impossible. Against San Jose State, Caleb Williams completed 18 of 25 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns. Not the most eye-popping numbers but those numbers clearly got the job done against the Spartans last week
Williams was aided in the passing game by the incredibly fast Zachariah Branch who caught four passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. Branch and fellow wide receiver Tahj Washington also make the USC passing attack led by Williams very potent.
The Wolf Pack defense and especially the secondary will need to find a way to limit the passing attack of USC on Saturday. Nevada defensive backs and safeties such as Isaiah Essissma, KK Meier, Richard Toney Jr., and Aedan Seiuli are tasked this Saturday to try to corral Caleb Williams and the USC passing game.
All I have to say is good luck to those gentlemen because they’ll need it.
Connect on some big plays on offense
The Wolf Pack are 38 point underdogs to a USC team that is an AP top 10 program. The odds are very long for Nevada to pull off the upset on Saturday afternoon. So Nevada will need to attempt some big, chunk plays on offense if they are to have any chance.
It can be running trick plays for starting QB Brendon Lewis, AJ Bianco or even Shane Illingworth. Or running reverse plays for running back Sean Dollars or the fast receivers of Jamaal Bell and Dalevon Campbell. It could be a trick play on special teams that could net some positive yards or even a touchdown to keep the game close against USC.
Bottom line: the Wolf Pack will need to get creative on offense on Saturday if they want to make the game competitive. If the Wolf Pack do not find ways to generate big plays on offense, well expect a long, long day for Nevada.
USC 42 Nevada 22
Let us be real, Nevada chances to defeat USC in Los Angeles are not slim to none, they are none to none. The Trojans are a potential College Football Playoff team while the Wolf Pack are in year two of a long rebuild.
The Wolf Pack can keep it competitive by getting the ground game going and trying to generate big plays but that won’t be enough as the Trojans have too much talent for Nevada to try to corral.
Nevada should look to win because to quote the great Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME” but Nevada should look to be competitive and also see if their offense can move the ball against USC.
If Nevada can successfully move the ball well on offense like San Jose State did last week, then the rest of the season could be promising. But if it is the same offensive struggles like last season, well strap in for a long season Nevada fans.