The odds are like that of UNLV needing extra parking spaces for home football games. It-hasn’t-happened-in-20-years kind of odds. No-chance-as-long-as-Lee-Corso-is-allowed-to-continue-speaking kind of odds.
Colin Kaepernick finds himself today in an enviable and yet exasperating position, one that other great players from non-Bowl Championship Series conferences know annually.
He is enjoying the kind of season that postseason awards in college football are meant for, producing the sort of weekly numbers that inevitably draw voters, dominating at quarterback for UNR in a manner worthy of being part of a Heisman Trophy discussion.
The last player from a non-BCS league to win the award was Ty Detmer of Brigham Young.
What it says: Team goals do not change for individual players when it comes to those from the best non-BCS outfits trying to crash the ultimate of parties each year.
Perfection is not only needed but required.
Even then, guarantees are few.
Kaepernick after four games has led the Wolf Pack to a spotless record and their first Top 25 ranking since 1948, a placement expected to improve tonight when UNR enters Sam Boyd Stadium a near three-touchdown favorite to dismiss the Rebels a sixth consecutive time.
Good news for UNLV: No team has won six straight in the rivalry series.
Bad news for UNLV: It hasn’t tackled Kaepernick in two years.
If the Heisman and other awards were based exclusively on how a player performs against a given team, Kaepernick would choose the Rebels as his case study every time and then some. It helps when you have been essentially playing against air.
Kaepernick in UNR’s last two wins against UNLV: 797 yards, seven touchdowns.
UNLV in those losses: 727 yards, seven touchdowns.
“He’s awfully good,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “I don’t have memory of many guys I’ve seen up close and personal who can do what he does. We can’t underestimate his speed. Everyone we talked to said, ‘Don’t underestimate his speed.’ He’s a fast football player.
“He has had good games against almost everybody.”
Good is one thing.
What he has done against UNLV is crazy-good.
Hauck’s challenge is to discover some level of success where the Rebels under Mike Sanford failed miserably against UNR and Kaepernick — simply, to control a quarterback who is one of nine players in NCAA history to rush and throw for 3,000 yards, who while directing an option-based attack owns the skill to shred defenses through the air.
It’s not a stretch to say UNLV tonight will face college football’s best player. It’s more fact than anything.
Oh, and there is this: He doesn’t make mistakes. Kaepernick has thrown just 17 interceptions in 1,018 career attempts, ranking him second in the NCAA among quarterbacks with at least 800 throws.
Oh, and there is this: While he is listed at 6 feet 6 inches and a slight 225 pounds and is often left exposed on the option, he never gets hurt.
“That’s maybe the most remarkable piece of the puzzle with him,” Hauck said. “He doesn’t look incredibly durable physically, but he’s a physical runner and gets hits and gets right back up. I think more than anything, that’s what you admire about him most.”
Chris Ault is a Hall of Fame coach at UNR who would probably choose chiseling his teeth with a handsaw than shifting from the team concept to discuss any potential individual honors for his players.
But he also knows what he has at quarterback, having tailored his pistol offense more and more to complement Kaepernick. It has produced 924 yards passing, 451 rushing and 15 touchdowns (eight on the ground) from the senior this season. It has been a major reason UNR has done things like put up 52 points in routing California and controlling more than 36 minutes of the clock in winning at Brigham Young last week.
The Heisman Trophy is a long shot even if Kaepernick finishes the season on an unbeaten team and with numbers your Xbox console couldn’t calculate.
History is clear — the kind that says just eight players from schools not affiliated with BCS leagues have won the award since its inception in 1935. The kind that says TV commentators like Corso will annually go out of their way to push candidates from BCS conferences over those wearing the dreaded non-BCS tag.
All a player like Kaepernick can do is continue winning games and tearing up defenses and let the judgment about his team’s conference and schedule fall where it might.
All a team like UNLV can do is hope to finally slow him.
On the subject of long odds …
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618.