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Nevada was one win away from a bowl last season and decided it was time to move on from Brian Polian, who ultimately disappointed in four years. In comes Jay Norvell with a vastly different scheme. He’s spent the last few years working with high-speed offenses from Arizona State to Texas and Oklahoma. There’s no guarantee to how it will play out, especially with quarterback a toss-up.

All signs in the spring pointed to Alabama transfer David Cornwell winning the job at quarterback over one of last year’s starters, Ty Gangi. James Butler (1,300-plus yards last two years) is the known commodity in the offense, but in a switch to the Air Raid (with coordinator Matt Mumme) to go with a new offensive line, there’s no telling how the season will play out for Butler in his final year. The line returns just two starters so that’ll be another worry for Butler in addition to seeing fewer carries. Outside of Wyatt Demps (686 yards, 9 TDs) there isn’t much experience at wide receiver. The offense is completely changing from a year ago that had a run-first approach. Now with a new quarterback likely and new offense, there’s no telling how the first year will go.

Defensively, the Wolf Pack will have to be ready for more plays so Jeff Casteel was brought in, formerly of West Virginia and Arizona. The defense will move to a 3-3-5 scheme with the hope of improving the run defense after finishing last in the country a year ago. End Malik Reed (five sacks) is back, but that’s about it on the front end with sophomore linebacker Gabriel Sewell aiming for a big campaign. The secondary is the strong suit of this team with a slew of experienced safeties led by Asauni Rufus and Dameon Baber. They were good a year ago, but if the run defense doesn’t improve, that won’t matter again.

The schedule doesn’t set up too nicely if Nevada wants to return to a bowl game as trips to Northwestern and Washington State stand out early. Even the home game against Toledo is no freebie. Finding four wins in MWC play will be the goal and all four of their home games are a logical place to start. Air Force’s triple-option could be problematic, but Hawaii, SJSU and UNLV are all beatable. Finding a win on the road may be a little more difficult, but the MWC opener at Fresno stands out.

With a new coach that’s overhauling both sides of the ball, this will be a hard team to get a good read on and the early over/under was around three and four wins. But if Cornwell is the real deal at quarterback and Butler still finds room behind a new offensive line, the Wolf Pack should keep up with most teams in the conference. Finding wins may be a little more difficult, but with some favorable home games, reaching four or five wins is likely once again. The Wolf Pack have the same +3500 odds (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the conference as Hawaii, meaning the teams are expected to battle for second place in the West division behind SDSU.


2017 Nevada Wolf Pack Football Schedule

Sept. 2 at Northwestern
Sept. 9 vs. Toledo

Sept. 16 vs. Idaho State
Sept. 23 at Washington State

Sept. 30 at Fresno State
Oct. 7 vs. Hawaii
Oct. 14 at Colorado State

Oct. 20 vs. Air Force
Nov. 4 at Boise State
Nov. 11 vs. San Jose State
Nov. 18 at San Diego State
Nov. 25 vs. UNLV

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