Nevada v. Louisiana-Lafayette
Mercedes-Benz Superdome — New Orleans, LA
December 20, 2014 — 11:00 am Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
Well… it’s the first bowl game of the season. That’s worth something. After all, you’ve gone two weeks without any FBS action except the Army-Navy game. (You DID watch the Army-Navy game, right?) And you’re going to get a more exciting time than not watching football. You’ve got a team that was an MWC West afterthought (i.e. in the weaker division of the Mountain West) and a team that was a 35-16 loss to Appalachian State away from sharing the Sun Belt title. I can’t guarantee you greatness, but you’re getting football, right?
What Each Team Brings to the Table
The Wolf Pack was the third-place team in the MWC West, finishing 7-5 in a season that is a far cry away from the glory days a few years ago when Colin Kaepernick was guiding the Pistol. This is a team that beat Washington State and BYU, lost to Boise State and Colorado State by a touchdown or less, and fell in overtime to Air Force. The team was far better rushing than passing the ball, with Cody Fajardo throwing for just 6.3 yards per attempt for less than 200 yards per game. The ground game put up over 200 yards per game, though, and you are likely to see fireworks — the offense put up over 31 yards a game, while the defense made things interesting by allowing more than four touchdowns each outing.
The fan base will be going nuts, given the in-state interest. But how interested will they be? The Ragin’ Cajuns have been to the New Orleans Bowl for four years straight, and they’re only here this year thanks to the NCAA’s stipulation about transitional FBS teams being ineligible for a bowl game in the first year of FBS competition. Had the NCAA sensibly given Georgia Southern a waiver of this rule as the Sun Belt champion, ULL wouldn’t be back at the Superdome if the NCAA wasn’t so autocratic. Yet here they are, and it should be interesting. Their ground game is better than Nevada’s, the passing game is even worse than the Wolf Pack, and they average right around the same score for and against per game as the Wolf Pack.
What is Likely to Happen
It is an even matchup, so this game has that going for it. Nevada and Louisiana-Lafayette would not have gone bowling in another era, but in that era you also didn’t get to watch postseason college football at any point until after Christmas. You’ve got two well-matched teams playing an extra game, and the team that is more motivated is likely the one that will have extensive home support. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won the past three New Orleans Bowls they’ve played — by two against San Diego State in 2011, by nine against East Carolina in 2012, and by three against Tulane last year. Expect a close contest that ends in victory for Terrance Broadway and company.
Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Nevada 28