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Ten-win 2011 season feasible for Wolf Pack

Joe Santoro, Tribune News Service columnist

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

Are you worried about the immediate future of the Nevada Wolf Pack football team? Don’t be. No Colin Kaepernick, no Vai Taua and no Dontay Moch doesn’t mean no fun for the Pack in 2011. The Wolf Pack will win no less than nine of their 12 regular season games in 2011 heading into its more than likely return trip to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Pack will sweep through its seven-game Western Athletic Conference schedule and also blitz non-league foes New Mexico and UNLV at home. There’s your nine victories already. That leaves three road games: Boise State, Texas Tech and Oregon. Oregon and Boise State will be difficult trips, but Texas Tech is certainly a winnable game. We could be looking at a 10-2 Pack regular season. So stop your worrying.

. . .

The Wolf Pack won’t be the only WAC team with a new quarterback next year. Fresno State’s Ryan Colburn, Idaho’s Nathan Enderle, Louisiana Tech’s Ross Jenkins, San Jose State’s Jordan La Secla and Utah State’s Diondre Borel will all join the Pack’s Colin Kaepernick as former WAC quarterbacks in 2011. The Pack picked the right year to break in a new quarterback.

. . .

The Portland Trail Blazers have lost yet another key player (Marcus Camby) to injury and, still, Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt can’t get off the bench. Johnson hasn’t played since Dec. 30 and Babbitt hasn’t taken off his warm-up since Jan. 2. Imagine, if you will, a simpler time when college players stayed in school four years. This year’s Wolf Pack team, with Babbitt and Johnson, would have easily won the WAC. Imagine a starting lineup of Johnson at the point, Malik Story at shooting guard, Dario Hunt at center, Babbitt at power forward and Olek Czyz at small forward. We’d be talking about how high of a seed the Pack was going to get in the NCAA Tournament right now.

. . .

Once again, I broke even with my NFL predictions a week ago. So here we go again: Green Bay 34, Chicago 17 and Pittsburgh 21, New York 13. Four great defenses. Four great NFL franchises. Sunday is the best football day of the year now that college football has ruined New Year’s Day by making it meaningless.

. . .

The difference between the Packers and Bears will be Aaron Rodgers. Jay Cutler will throw a half-dozen silly passes and probably half of them will go right to a Packer. The difference between the Steelers and Jets is strong safety Troy Polamalu, outside linebacker James Harrison and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Those three are the best at what they do in the NFL.

. . .

Don’t look now but the Oakland A’s are becoming a legitimate playoff contender. You have to like what the A’s have done this off-season. They added Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour and now have one of the top bullpens in the big leagues. They also went out and added David DeJesus and Josh Willingham to the outfield as well as designated hitter Hideki Matsui. OK, yes, it’s not the second coming of the Bash Brothers but this team could actually win 90 games in 2011.


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