R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL STORYLINES
1. Louisiana will stay close to home in New Orleans and wrap up its season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the fourth consecutive year. The New Orleans Bowl is the only bowl game the Ragin’ Cajuns have ever played in at the FBS level, although they are 3-0 in the game. Nevada returns to the postseason after a one-year hiatus against another former Big West Conference school in Louisiana, but is searching for its first bowl victory in four seasons.
2. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo is one of two players in FBS history with over 9,000 yards passing and 3,000 rushing in a career (former Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the other). Fajardo, who is one of only six active FBS signal-callers responsible for at least 100 touchdowns in his career, is the only quarterback in Mountain West Conference history with 13 career 100-yard rushing efforts. With 208 total yards, he will pass four players – including former North Carolina State and Wisconsin standout Russell Wilson – and move into 16th place on the NCAA’s all-time total yardage list.
3. Although he isn’t nearly as accomplished as Fajardo, three-year starter and 2012 New Orleans Bowl MVP Terrance Broadway has proven to be a record-setting quarterback in his own right for the Ragin’ Cajuns. On Nov. 22, the former Houston transfer passed longtime NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme to become the school’s all-time leader in total yardage (9,159). Broadway’s career 63 percent completion rate is also a Louisiana record, dwarfing second-place Eric Rekieta (59 percent).
TV: 11 a.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Louisiana -1
ABOUT NEVADA (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West): The Wolf Pack’s ground game closed out the regular season on a roll, accumulating at least 223 rushing yards over the final five games after doing so only once in the first seven. Nevada piled up 408 rushing yards in its Nov. 29 win over UNLV, placing three players over 100 yards rushing – including 143 from Fajardo, a career-high 132 from junior running back Don Jackson and a personal-best 116 from freshman James Butler. The Wolf Pack are tied for 11th in the country in turnover margin (plus-11), creating 19 takeaways in their wins but only seven in their losses.
ABOUT LOUISIANA (8-4, 7-1 Sun Belt): The Ragin’ Cajuns have won seven of their last eight, relying heavily on the nation’s 26th-ranked rushing attack spearheaded by Broadway (634 yards), Alonzo Harris (737) and Elijah McGuire (1,165), who finished the regular season ranked sixth in FBS in yards per carry (7.8). McGuire became only the fourth player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in a season and only the second running back to do so. Louisiana, which ended a 41-year-old bowl drought in 2011 in New Orleans, is one of only six schools to win a bowl or postseason game in each of the last three seasons.
PREDICTION: Nevada 34, Louisiana 27