New Mexico Bowl: Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Arizona Wildcats (-8.5, 78)
GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL STORYLINES
1. The game will feature two of the nation's top four runners in Arizona sophomore Ka'Deem Carey (second) and Nevada junior Stefphon Jefferson (fourth). Carey’s 1,757 rushing yards is already a single-season school record while Jefferson stands at 1,703 yards and needs 30 to break the Wolf Pack’s single-season mark.
2. The stage is set for both runners to have memorable games. Nevada, which ranks seventh in the country in rushing and 20th in scoring, will square off against Arizona’s 89th-ranked rush defense and 103rd scoring defense. Similarly, the Wildcats’ ground game and scoring offense – both ranked 17th in the nation – will face the Wolf Pack’s 112th-ranked rush defense and 95th-ranked scoring defense.
3. Two of college football’s most innovative coaches will be matching wits for the first time. Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez is considered as a pioneer of a no-huddle, run-oriented version of the spread offense while Nevada’s Chris Ault is credited as the creator of the “Pistol” offense that has only accentuated the athletic ability of quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick since he began using it in 2005.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: Arizona opened as an 8-point favorite and has been bet up as high as -10. The total has climbed from 75 to 78.
WEATHER: There is a 9 percent chance of snow for University Stadium and temperatures will dip into the high 30s. Winds are expected to blow west at 8 mph.
CONSENSUS: 54 percent of Covers Consensus players are picking Arizona while 53 percent are on the over.
* Wolf Pack are 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 non-conference games.
* Wildcats are 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. MWC.
* Under is 5-1 in Wolf Pack's last six Bowl games.
* Over is 7-1 in Wildcats' last eight games overall.
ABOUT NEVADA (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West, 3-9 ATS): Unlike the “Pistol” attack that saw the quarterback (Kaepernick) overshadow the running back (Vai Taua) two years ago, Jefferson has been the main beneficiary this season. But sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo certainly did his best impression of Kaepernick in 2012, throwing for 2,530 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 981 yards and 11 more scores. However, the Wolf Pack – and the defense in particular – have been in a tailspin since a 6-1 start as they went 0-4 against the top four teams in their conference over the second half of the schedule. In those four losses, Nevada surrendered an average of 277 rushing yards, 471 total yards and 41.5 points.
ABOUT ARIZONA (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12, 6-6 ATS): While the running game is the primary focus, the passing game is hardly without playmakers. Sophomore receiver Austin Hill posted 1,189 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns – the fourth and seventh-best single-season totals in school history, respectively – while Matt Scott’s 3,238 passing yards is the third-highest mark for a Wildcats quarterback in a season. Despite all the offensive success and surprising wins over the likes of Oklahoma State and USC, this is the same team that scored a combined 10 points in losses to Oregon and UCLA. Rodriguez’s seven wins in his rookie campaign were the most by an Arizona coach in his first season since Jim Young led the Wildcats to an 8-3 mark in 1973.