A look at Nevada as Arizona football's bowl competition
After nine days of rampant speculation, it was announced Sunday that Arizona will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15 against Nevada.
A 4-8 season last year cost former head coach Mike Stoops his job, but just one year later a 7-5 (4-5 in the Pac-12) finish helped Rich Rodriguez to a bowl in his first season as head coach.
Now, Arizona will have a quick turnaround with its bowl game coming 22 days after its 41-34 loss to ASU. By comparison, the Sun Devils’ break will last 36 days when they travel to San Francisco for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 29 and take on Navy.
Nevada’s turnaround is even quicker — 14 days — as the Wolf Pack (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West Conference) faced No. 19 Boise State on Saturday, falling 27-21.
Brandon Wimberly of the Nevada Wolf Pack makes a reception against Boise State at Mackay Stadium on Saturday, December 1, 2012, in Reno, Nevada. The Boise State Broncos defeated the Nevada Wolf Pack, 27-21. (Joe Jaszewski/Idaho Statesman/MCT)
The Wolf Pack are similar to the Wildcats in a few ways, especially on the ground. Running back Stephon Jefferson leads Nevada’s potent rushing attack, which is seventh-best in the country at 260 yards per game. The Wildcats come in at No. 15 with 230.4 per game, but running back Ka’Deem Carey is the nation’s leading rusher heading into bowl season, thanks to his 1,757 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Jefferson, though, is hot on his tail, trailing Carey by 54 yards but leading him with one more touchdown.
On the passing side of things, Nevada ranks in the top half of the country, although not quite as highly as Arizona.
The Wildcats have the 29th-best passing attack in the nation, and if not for its run-first tendencies in the last four games it would be even higher. For much of the season, Arizona was ranked in the top five on the heels of Matt Scott’s performance, which helped him to the All-Conference second team. Scott has 3,238 passing yards, still 11th-best, and 24 touchdowns, along with 485 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
For Nevada, sophomore signal caller Cody Fajardo has been a pleasant surprise for the Wolf Pack, garnering 2,530 yards and 17 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. Even more impressive, though, are his 981 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
On the opposite side of the ball, both teams are almost identically inadequate, although Nevada does have a decent pass defense. And for teams that are so adept at rushing the ball, they are equally bad at defending it.
Nevada is 110th in the nation, giving up 213.7 yards per game, while Arizona is 87th after giving up 189.75.
The Wolf Pack is No. 94 in the nation in scoring defense, giving up an average of 32.5 points per game, while Arizona is No. 100 with 34.25 per game.
BYU has the record for points scored in the New Mexico Bowl with 52, but don’t be surprised if that record is broken this year.