Nevada vs. California: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Nevada Wolf Pack open their highly-anticipated 2021 season on the road against Pac-12 opponent California.
Nevada Looking For A Road Win Against Pac-12 Opponent Cal in Season Opener
WEEK 1: Nevada Wolf Pack vs. California Golden Bears
WHERE: California Memorial Stadium; Berkeley, California
TV: Fox Sports 1
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FS1, by following this link.
RADIO: Nevada is on ESPN 94.5 in Reno and Cal is KGO 810 out of San Francisco.
SERIES RECORD: Cal leads 32-6-1. In the last game, Nevada won 31-24 on Sept. 12, 2012.
ODDS: Cal -3
SP+ PROJECTION: Cal by 5.9
FEI PROJECTION: Cal by 7.0
THREE KEYS FOR A NEVADA VICTORY
1. Unleash the Wolf Pack Offense and Get Going Early
The Wolf Pack have one of the best offenses in the Mountain West led by quarterback and potential NFL first-round draft pick Carson Strong. Strong has plenty of talented skill players to work with such as receivers Romeo Doubs and Elijah Cooks and running backs Toa Taua and Devonte Lee. Not to mention Strong can throw to a very talented tight end in Cole Turner.
Playing against a talented defense from a Power 5 conference such as Cal, the Wolf Pack on offense must get the ground running early and be explosive on offense. Strong must get the ball out to his playmakers like Doubs, Cooks and Turner to set the tone in a positive direction for Nevada.
On paper, Nevada does have the better offense than Cal and the Wolf Pack must utilize their strength to jump on the Golden Bears early and not let up.
2. Nevada’s Offensive Line Must Protect Carson Strong
In 2020, the Wolf Pack offensive line allowed 20 sacks, which was ninth in the Mountain West. That is not good considering that there is not a lot of playing experience behind Strong should he get hurt or injured. The Wolf Pack must do a better job in protecting Carson Strong in order for the offense and the team to reach its potential of winning the Mountain West.
Nevada is facing a Cal defense that has the talent to get after Strong (who was limited in August due to recovering from knee surgery) and disrupt the Wolf Pack defense, The Golden Bears defense return a number of key players on defense such as linebackers Cam Goode and Kuony Deng and defensive backs Josh Drayden, Elijah Hicks and Ray Woodie, a Florida State transfer.
The Bears defense has the players to make things difficult for the Wolf Pack offense and it is up to the Wolf Pack offensive line to protect Strong so Strong can successfully lead the offense.
3. Wolf Pack Must Aggressively Attack Cal’s Shaky Offense
As talented as California’s defense is heading into the start of the 2021 season, their offense is not as good. And in some instances in the 2020 season, the Golden Bears offense was bad.
Last season, the Golden Bears offense finished last in the Pac-12 in yards per play at 4.47 yards per play. Cal was also last in passing offense (192.8 yards per game) and next to last in rushing offense (126.8 yards per game).
The Golden Bears offense is not as formidable as their defense so it is critical for the Nevada defense clamp down on Cal’s offense and not give them any positive plays. The Wolf Pack defense, led by Dom Peterson, Sam Hammond and and Lawson Hall, must play well on defense and that could go a long way for Nevada to win on the road on Saturday.
The Wolf Pack open up the 2021 season with their most talented team in more than a decade. The offense has playmakers and a talented quarterback and a defense that is just as good and can be better. The Cal Golden Bears had an woeful 1-3 record but played well in close losses thanks to their defense. Cal did defeat Pac-12 champion Oregon last season so Cal has the talent and ability to stay in close contests.
I just don’t think the Golden Bears have the offense to score enough against the Wolf Pack. The Wolf Pack has the defense to stop Cal’s below average offense. It’ll be a close contest but in the end, I see the Wolf Pack coming away with a rare road victory against a Power Five team.
Nevada 28, California 23