Nevada Football: Heisman, New Year’s Six, Top Ten?
Wolf Pack have a chance to be great
Is this Nevada’s best team since Kaepernick?
Carson Strong‘s progression over the past two seasons:
’19 – 63.4 CMP % / 2,335 YDS / 11 TD / 7 INT
+ 6.7 CMP % / + 523 YDS / +16 / – 3 INT
(on 19 fewer attempts in ’20)
’20 – 70.1 CMP % / 2,858 YDS / 27 TD / 4 INT
Strong’s leap in production from ’19 to ’20 undoubtedly means a leap in expectations, not only immediately personal as far as Heisman Watch lists, but as a collective team with New Year’s Six bowl aspirations, and into to the near future as hype builds into late fall for him as a potential top ten prospect.
Heisman Watch lists
The west coast quarterback play could finally end up putting the spotlight over the Rocky Mountains for the first time in what seems like forever. USC’s Kedon Slovis, Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels, Oregon’s Ty Thompson, and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson are all, in some capacity, in the Heisman discussion, but, regarding Carson Strong, each of these Pac-12 quarterbacks have at least one, but three of the quartet two common opponents as the Wolf Pack this season.
Why does that matter?
Well, it will give us a gauge of how these “Power-5” quarterbacks and their offensive playmakers matchup against Strong and company head-to-head against some of the “same” defensive units, notably San Jose State, Fresno State, UNLV, Hawaii, and Cal.
Heisman Finalist: 5%
New Year’s Six Bowl berth
A New Year’s Six appearance is the most likely of three for Strong and the Wolf Pack, but going undefeated in conference play will be an uphill battle with road matchups in Boise, Fresno, and San Diego, as well as showdowns in Reno with Air Force and the defending conference champions San Jose State. Nevada could conceivably drop a close one in one of two early non-conference games with either Cal or Kansas State, but that would ill-advised considering the other “mid-major” contenders vying for their place in a New Year’s Six bowl.
Who would these “mid-majors” be?
Cincinnati returns star quarterback Desmond Ridder from a team that crashed the New Year’s Six last season in a near upset of Georgia. Cincinnati’s strength of schedule will be far and away better than Nevada’s with Notre Dame, Indiana, and UCF on the docket. Basically, Cincinnati can afford to drop a game; Nevada cannot.
Coastal Carolina seems to be in a similar boat as Nevada, as far as a softer schedule, featuring a home matchup against Kansas and a trip to Buffalo. Like Nevada, Coastal Carolina may need to run the table if they hope to punch their ticket to the New Year’s party.
Liberty, on the other hand, has boasts a similar path to a New Year’s bowl berth as Cincinnati based on scheduled dual trips to “Power-5” schools to face off against Syracuse and Ole Miss, as well as late season conference matchups with Louisiana and Army. They can drop a game somewhere along the line and hope for a Bearcats in-conference slip-up, but, again, Nevada, likely, cannot.
Nevada’s New Year’s Six berth: 30%
NFL Draft hype
Projecting two years out, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Clemson’s DJ Ugalelei will likely succeed Trevor Lawrence as “shoe-in” locks for the honor of greeting commissioner Roger Goodell at the podium as the NFL’s number one overall draft selection.
What does that mean for Carson Strong?
Well, in recent years we’ve seen much more success from quarterback’s drafted outside of the top five with Patrick Mahomes (10th overall in ’17) , Deshaun Watson (12th in ’17), Josh Allen (7th in ’18), Lamar Jackson (32nd in ’18), and Justin Herbert (6th in ’20) than those selected inside of it, specifically Jared Goff (1st overall in ’16), Carson Wentz (2nd in ’16), Mitchell Trubisky (2nd in ’17), and Sam Darnold (3rd in ’18).
Plus, Josh Allen’s development into a franchise quarterback out of the Mountain West will only help Strong’s bid for a high selection whenever he declares.
Top Ten ’22 Draft Selection: 20%