Two of the nation's best running backs go head-to-head in the first bowl game of the season.
Who, What, When, Where and Why?
New Mexico Bowl - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)
December 15 - 10 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. MT
8th Place Pac-12 vs. 5th Place Mountain West
Two of the top scoring offenses in the nation face off against two of the worst scoring defenses in the nation, so it will be a big surprise if these two teams don't trade blows and end up putting a lot of points on the board. Both teams success on offense can be attributed to their unique scheme with the Wolf Pack deploying the Pistol offense developed by head coach Chris Ault while the Wildcats attack with one of the fastest tempos of anyone in college football. Both defenses have assuredly spent the last couple of weeks preparing for the other's difficult attack, but it is likely that the game will still turn into a shootout.
Both offenses are led by running backs that are among the nation's leaders in yardage who also scored at least 20 touchdowns each. Arizona sophomore Ka'Deem Carey led the Pac-12 in rushing and took home a number of All-American honors. Carey can become almost unstoppable when the Wildcats high speed offense is rolling. Case in point the monstrous 366-yard game he put up against Colorado. For the Wolf Pack, junior Stefphon Jefferson had one of the quietest superb seasons by a running back in the nation, rushing for more than 1,700 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns.
No other bowl match-up this year will pit two better running backs against each other and neither team is particularly adept at stopping the run, so tune in to see what should be one of best face offs of the entire season.
Who are the stars?
Ka'Deem Carey So. RB Arizona
Honored as an All-American by a number of publications and a first team All-Pac-12 performer, Carey finished second in the nation in rushing yards and scored 20 touchdowns. A complete back with great vision, Carey isn't spectacular but is difficult to tackle and has breakaway speed at his disposal when he needs it.
Stefphon Jefferson Jr. RB Nevada
A bigger, NFL-style back at 210 pounds Jefferson has a vicious combination of size and speed that can terrorize a defense. Jefferson has already inflicted pain upon a Pac-12 defense as he ran for 147 yards and 3 touchdowns against Cal earlier in the year and did even more damage inside the Mountain West as he scored 7 touchdowns in the Wolf Pack's dismantling of Hawaii.
Matt Scott Sr. QB Arizona
One of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, Scott threw for more than 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns while also rushing for nearly 500 yards and 5 touchdowns. One of Scott's most underrated qualities though, might be his ability to use his feet to simply avoid sacks and make plays down the field with his arm. A senior and a huge part of the Wildcats turnaround this season, expect him to go all out in hopes of ending his career on a high note and getting the Wildcats their first bowl win since 2008.
Other Players to Watch
- Cody Fajardo So. QB Nevada
- Austin Hill So. WR Arizona
- Brandon Wimberly Sr. WR Nevada
Nevada's defensive backs against Arizona's receivers
Arizona has two of the most underrated receivers in the nation in sophomore Austin Hill and senior Dan Buckner who are excellent at beating defenses that are focusing on stopping Carey. Both are also huge targets (Hill 6'3 211, Buckner 6'4 214) who present a big challenge for Nevada's smaller cornerbacks. The Wolf Pack will have a very tough time staying with the Wildcats if they can't match-up here.
Arizona's pass rush against Nevada's offensive line
The Wildcats are small, inexperienced and lack talent up front on defense and are bad at stopping the run, but might be even worse at getting after the quarterback. Even though they prefer to pound Jefferson quite a bit, the Wolfpack will assuredly also test the Wildcats very soft pass defense and will have success unless they can find some way to get pressure.
You're a Pac-12 fan... why do you want Arizona to win?
The Mountain West thinks they are better than the Pac-12.
Well, I don't think they really think that, but it is hard to argue against the fact that the Mountain West has certainly narrowed the gap between the two conferences and adding teams like Nevada has been part of that. The Wolf Pack are one of the marquee teams in the conference and are actually 3-4 against the Pac-12 the past 10 years including an upset of Cal in Berkeley this year.
A comfortable win by the eight place Pac-12 team over the fifth place team in the Mountain West will help maintain the Pac-12's superiority.
Offense, offense and more offense, the bowl season will get kicked off with an entertaining game where both teams won't be able to stop each other. I think that Arizona is just a little more talented though, especially in their passing game and their hurry-up will wear down Nevada, allowing them to hit big plays late that put the game away.
Arizona 52 Nevada 42