Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Arizona Wildcats
Dec. 15, 1 p.m., ESPN
University Stadium (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Line: Arizona -7.5
Behind dynamic quarterback Matt Scott and first-year Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez’s Spread ‘n’ Shread offense, the Wildcats find themselves back in a bowl game. Waiting for them in the Land of Enchantment: Nevada, led by veteran “Pistol Chris” Ault, an offensive innovator in his own right.
Sexiness: Morena Baccarin
Far from a traditional beauty, the Brazilian-American star of Homeland is alluring nonetheless. Nevada and Arizona both play unconventional styles of football, but chances are that if you start watching it, you’ll have a hard time looking away.
A word about our sponsor...: According to the company’s website, “Gildan is a vertically integrated marketer and manufacturer of premium quality basic apparel.” Think generic activewear. Yeah, fascinating.
Aces: RichRod brought his turbocharged offensive scheme with him to Tucson and found a quarterback in Scott who’s ideally suited for it. UA finished second in scoring in the Pac-12, averaging more than 38 points per game and trailing only Oregon. The Wildcats ranked third in the conference in offensive yards per play (6.27).
Deuces: Implementing Jeff Casteel’s unorthodox 3-3 Odd Stack on the other side of the ball has proved far trickier. UA allowed almost as many points per game (34.3) as it scored. It’s actually kind of difficult to find one thing that this defense did that wasn’t subpar.
Wildcard: Casteel. Yes, his D stunk for a large part of the season. That doesn’t make Casteel any less of a creative defensive mind. With all of those additional practices leading up to the bowl game, he’ll have an opportunity to both tighten up his defenders’ technique and come up with a plan to keep the Pistol from blowing a hole through his D.
Aces: Nothing too out of the ordinary in Reno. Ault continues to rely on the same ground attack that he has for the 74 years that he has been coaching the Wolf Pack. Tailback Stefphon Jefferson and quarterback Cody Fajardo have combined on the season to run for nearly 2,000 yards and score more than 30 touchdowns on the ground.
Deuces: For as much as Nevada clearly hearts running the ball on offense, the D is diametrically opposite in terms of its level of interest in stopping opponents from running. Teams have run at will against the Wolf Pack, who are giving up more than 5 yards per carry.
Wildcard: Momentum – as in, Nevada doesn’t have it. After a hot start at 6-1, the team lost four of its final five games. Maybe the 14 days between the season-ending loss to Boise State and this game will allow Ault to rally the troops
So you don’t forget...: RichRod has managed to keep his name out of the multiple coach hunts going on around the country. So far, that is. We’ve still got a few weeks left for him to potentially toss his hat in a ring.
Crystal Ball: ‘Zona had its fair share of struggles this season, including humiliations at the hands of Oregon and UCLA. The Wildcats still have an explosive O that appears poised to do with Nevada’s defense what it pleases. This marks the Wolf Pack’s eighth straight bowl appearance, but Ault’s team is 2-5 overall in the previous seven games. Don’t expect Nevada to be riding too high entering this game.
Score: Arizona 38, Nevada 30