First up is the University of Nevada. We know this will be the first game in the NEW California Memorial Stadium and the season opener for the 2012 version of the Golden Bears. As of today, we also know that this game will kickoff at noon (PT) and be aired on the brand new Pac-12 Networks.
The Wolf Pack, out of the Mountain West Conference, will make the 208-mile trip from Reno, Nev. to Berkeley to open the 2012 campaign.
The season opener will be the first meeting between the Bears and Wolf Pack since Sept. 17, 2010, when Nevada defeated Cal, 52-31, at Mackay Stadium in Reno. The win for Nevada snapped a 19-game winning streak for Cal in a series between the two schools that dates all the way back to 1899. The Golden Bears own a 22-2-1 all-time record against Nevada.
In their last meeting, now-San Francisco 49ers reserve quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 181 yards and two more scores in the win. Cal running back Shane Vereen ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Marvin Jones finished with 161 yards receiving on 12 catches in the contest. Golden Bear quarterback Kevin Riley passed for 277 yards on 23-of-37 passing, but was hurt by three interceptions to just one touchdown pass in the game. D.J. Holt led the defensive effort for the Bears with 16 tackles in the game.
That was the 2010 contest, and a lot has happened since. Let's take a look at Nevada's 2012 squad. The Wolf Pack are entering the first season in the Mountain West Conference after moving over from the Western Athletic Conference in the off-season. They finished 7-6 overall last season, ending the year with a 24-17 loss to Southern Mississippi in the Sheraton Hawai`i Bowl. Cal and Nevada had two common opponents on the 2011 slate with both schools defeating Fresno State (Cal 36-12; Nev. 45-38) and losing at Oregon (Cal 15-43; Nev. 20-69).
Nevada returns 14 starters overall, including six on offense in its "Pistol" formation and seven on defense in its "4-3" alignment. Senior place kicker Allen Hardison is Nevada's lone returning starter on special teams.
Head coach Chris Ault returns for his 28th year guiding the Wolf Pack. He owns a 226-103-1 overall record during his tenure in Reno. Nevada will have first-year offensive (Nick Rolovich) and defensive (Mike Bradeson) coordinators when it comes to Berkeley this fall, which could lead to changes in some of the Wolf Pack's schemes on both sides of the ball. Rolovich comes to Nevada after four very successful seasons as the architect of Hawai'i's high-powered offense.
Sophomore Cody Fajardo, who garnered WAC Freshman of the Year honors in 2011, returns under center for the Wolf Pack. He threw for 1,707 yards and six touchdowns to go along with six interceptions last fall. Fajardo completed 68.8 percent of his passes in 2011, while splitting time with senior Tyler Lantrip.
Fajardo's top returning target from 2011 is sophomore wideout Aaron Bradley, who had 28 receptions for 336 yards and three touchdowns last fall. Junior tight end Kolby Arendse (26 receptions for 340 yards and two TDs) is another option for Fajardo.
There is a four-way battle for the starting running back job after the graduation of Mark Lampford, who rushed for 911 yards on 159 carries in 2011. Of the four players listed on the Wolf Pack's post-spring depth chart, Kendall Brock has the most production with 101 yards on just 13 carries all of last season.
Senior safety Duke Williams (83 tackles, one interception and six pass breakups in 2011) will lead the Wolf Pack's defensive unit this fall. Nevada will miss linebackers Brandon Marshall (103 tackles, 7.5 TFLs in 2011) and James-Michael Johnson (100 tackles, 6.5 TFLS in 2011), who were drafted by the Jaguars and Browns, respectively, earlier this spring.
Nevada expects a lot from one of its newest additions in junior college All-American defensive tackle Cortez Woods. He transferred to the Wolf Pack from American River College in Sacramento. The 6-3, 270-pound lineman is a welcome addition to a defensive line that graduated three seniors in 2011.
On special teams, Allen was 8-for-11 on field goal attempts with a long of 48 yards last season. He converted two of four attempts from beyond 40 yards.
Now that you have read up on Nevada, let's hear what your thoughts of Cal's season-opener against the Wolf Pack. We are 79 days away from kickoff and it is never too early to offer your prediction on the outcome.