Nevada v. Colorado State
Arizona Stadium — Tucson, AZ
December 29, 2015 — 7:30 pm Eastern (ASN)
Why You Should Watch
In a real rarity for a non-championship game, this year’s brand-new Arizona Bowl will host its inaugural contest… by featuring two teams from the same conference. With the thin field of candidates to choose from, bowl season’s return to Tucson for the first time since the Cactus Bowl migrated to Phoenix for the 2000 edition was forced to invite a pair of Mountain West opponents. At least both made it to .500 this season, preventing the infant bowl game from hosting a 5-7 team. At least the venue will be well positioned to attract fans from both sides, which should make this a fun one to watch on television… if you can find it, that is, as this is the one bowl game to be broadcast outside the ESPN or CBS networks by budding American Sports Network.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Nevada Wolf Pack
Nevada couldn’t pass the ball to save itself this season, and while they were competent with the ground game it did not translate into points for the offense. Similarly, the defense was decent but hardly great, doing just enough to help the Wolf Pack reach 6-6 in the regular season. One place where Nevada did excel was in protecting the football, losing just one turnover per game to tie for 13th nationally in that category. While it lost big to both Arizona and Texas A&M in non-conference Power Five tests, three of Nevada’s four regular-season conference defeats all came by a touchdown or less. (Only conference champ San Diego State beat them by a bigger scoreline.) The Wolf Pack are hardly a team you’d expect to be worthy of a bowl appearance, but they are good enough to make this an interesting contest.
Colorado State Rams
After losing head coach Jim McElwain to the reclamation project at Florida, nobody was quite certain how the Rams would look under first-time replacement Mike Bobo. There were stops and starts, as Colorado State lost in overtime to both Minnesota and Colorado and was blown out by Utah State and Boise State. They did, however, deal division champ Air Force their only conference loss before the title game, so there were bright spots. The offense was better at running the ball than passing, thanks largely to the backfield trio of Dalyn Dawkins, Izzy Matthews, and Jasen Oden Jr., who combined for over 2000 yards (but only 12 touchdowns). The Rams were also phenomenal on special teams, averaging the second-best net punting nationally and finishing in the top 25 in both kick and punt returns. CSU could potentially dominate the field-position battle in Tucson.
What is Likely to Happen
Colorado State has a history of exciting bowl finishes, and this game should be no different. While these are two Mountain West teams, at least they are from different divisions and did not face one another this season. When they met last year in Reno, the Rams prevailed 31-24. This game should turn out similarly, with Nevada having played in the weaker of the two MWC divisions and faring worse in the statistical analysis. With Vegas setting Colorado State as three-point favorites, the Rams are an attractive betting option… if you are into such things. Look for Joe Hansley and Delonte Gaines to flip the field position in their favor with a long return or two, and for the backfield to do enough damage agains the Wolf Pack front seven to give Nick Stevens time to find stud receiver Hollywood Higgins for a touchdown or two.
Colorado State 31, Nevada 24
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