Fanpicks.com College Football Bowl Game Previews
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Colorado State vs. Nevada
By: Aldo Panessidi
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We preview the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl which features the Colorado State against Nevada with our prediction hedging on Colorado State to win 37 to 26
For the first time since the Big Eight’s Nebraska and Oklahoma met in the 1979 Orange Bowl, two opponents from the same conference will square off in a non-playoff bowl game when Nevada and Colorado State of the Mountain West meet Dec. 29 in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson. With only 77 bowl-eligible teams to fill 80 slots and several conferences unable to fill their affiliations, the selection process became a scramble and, when the dust settled, the West-Division Wolf Pack and Mountain-Division Rams wound up pitted against each other in the first-year bowl. The teams did not meet in the regular season due to the conference’s unbalanced-schedule rotation, but Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson quickly issued a statement following the bowl-pairings announcement Dec. 6, saying: “It is a travesty the Mountain West has been forced into this situation. Clearly, the system is broken. … There is consensus change needed, and this year’s outcome must not be repeated.”
Nevada struggled offensively this season, ranking 87th in the FBS in scoring (26.1 points per game) and 83rd in total offense (377.7 yards), and will have an interim play-caller in Tucson with offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich leaving to accept the head-coaching position at Hawaii. Wide receivers coach Jim Hofher, a former head coach at Cornell and Buffalo, will handle the duties and also will switch from coaching the receivers to quarterbacks. And with the Wolf Pack playing in a post-Christmas bowl game, coach Brian Polian has started his search for the team’s next offensive coordinator to step in for Rolovich, who had served in that capacity the last four seasons.
Mike Bobo already has had the most successful initial coaching season in Colorado State history, and the Rams are building on that with the additional practices and the extra game itself. In particular, quarterback Nick Stevens has shown strides under Bobo, the offensive coordinator at Georgia the previous eight seasons, as he set the program’s sophomore record with 2,369 passing yards. Stevens also has thrown a Mountain West-leading 21 touchdown passes – the fifth-highest single-season total in Colroado State history.
NEVADA Season Overview (6-6, 4-4 Mountain West): The Wolf Pack are making their 10th bowl appearance in the last 11 seasons, but it was a struggle as they got off to 1-2 start and then closed the season with two straight losses. With 205.6 rushing yards per game out of the pistol attack, Nevada ranks 28th nationally and joins Southern Miss as one of two FBS programs to boast a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in tailbacks James Butler (1,153) and Don Jackson (1,029). All-Mountain West defensive linemen Ian Seau and Lenny Jones and safety Dameon Baber lead the Wolf Pack defense, which ranked fifth in the conference against the rush (188.8 yards) and seventh versus the pass (206) while allowing 27.2 points per game.
COLORADO STATE Season Overview (7-5, 5-3): The Rams are making their third straight bowl appearance and have won 11 of their 13 meetings with Nevada, including a 31-24 victory in Reno a season ago. Colorado State is averaging 30.2 points and 417 yards per game, and closed the season on a four-game roll, thanks in large part to senior All-Mountain West receiver Rashard Higgins (66 receptions, 933 yards, eight TDs), who needs 115 receiving yards to become the program’s all-time leader. All-Conference middle linebacker Cory James leads the defense, which ranked seventh in the Mountain West against the rush (208.1 yards) and fourth versus the pass (186.2) while allowing 27.2 points per contest.