Saturday, December 15: New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, NM at 1pm EST
Arizona Wildcats (7-5) vs. Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5)
Neither team is 6-6, and that alone makes this a great kickoff to the bowl season. The matchup of power running offenses, led by 1,700-yard rushers, should make an interesting game.
Vegas line/spread: Arizona by 9 (over/under 79)
The early line was 8 points and quickly moved to 10. By game day it had eased back to 8 1/2 points, while the over/under rose from 75 to 79.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
The game-comparison system heavily favors Arizona and believes the Wildcats are likely to cover a 10-point spread about 3/5 of the time. That's primarily because Arizona ranks 32nd in the Strength Power Rating while Nevada is #68.
Strength power rating: Arizona 48, Nevada 34 by Median rating: Arizona 51, Nevada 31
The yardage analysis yields an even higher score estimate, but a much closer game. Arizona is #6 in total yardage (adjusted for opponents) and just #108 on defense, while Nevada is #16 offensively, 93rd defensively. Lots of yards generally = lots of points, and Arizona edges them by gaining nearly 600 yards of offense to Nevada's 560.
The per-play estimate is a little more down-to-earth, but it doesn't account for tempo: Arizona is #5 and Nevada #10 in the nation in number of offensive plays from scrimmage.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: Arizona 55, Nevada 46
- Interceptions: Neither team throws too many interceptions, nor picks off a lot of passes, particularly Nevada. Based on total pass "defenses," they should have about one each in the average game, with Nevada having a slight advantage worth maybe 1/2 point.
- Forced fumbles: Arizona forces quite a few fumbles (9th in the nation, adjusted) while Nevada gives up quite a few (#112 in forced fumbles against) so we give the Wildcats 1.8 forced fumbles to Nevada's 0.9. At 50% recovery, that's a 0.45 advantage or 1.8 point edge.
- Sacks: On average, Arizona should get about 1.33 sacks to Nevada's .66, which translates to about a 1-point adjustment in favor of the Wildcats.
- Red zone%: Neither team is great in the red zone, but Nevada is particularly bad at red zone defense (#118 in the nation by our adjusted numbers). So Arizona has an expected 81% success rate to Nevada's 67%, which adds 3.8 points to Arizona's estimate and subtracts a point from the Wolf Pack.
- Kick returns: Arizona is poor on kickoff returns, while Nevada is strong on punt returns. Nevada's kickoff coverage is fairly poor, too, so Arizona should see its normal starting field position. Arizona's punt coverage is average, so Nevada has a slight here edge due to Khalid Wooten, who ranks #4 in the nation.
Overall, Arizona wins nearly every category in the adjustments, bringing the yardage-based margin up from 3 to 9, which is more in-line with the Strength power rating estimated margin of victory as well as the Vegas spread.
Estimated Time of Possession Arizona: 27:36 Nevada: 32:24
Nevada should have a significant edge in time of possession, almost 5 minutes worth. Though both teams run a lot of plays, Nevada is pretty standard in average time of possession while Arizona is 109th in the nation.
When Arizona has the ball
|Arizona rushing offense: #12
||Nevada rushing defense: #99
Ka'Deem Carey quietly became the nation's leading rusher with 1,757 yards; he has 20 TDs on the year. Meanwhile Nevada rushing defense is pretty porous. Look for Carey to have a strong day, maybe 150 to 200 yards, as Arizona puts up around 280 on the ground.
|Arizona passing offense: #23||Nevada passing defense: #71 per att: #65|
|Arizona interceptions thrown ranking: #52||Nevada interceptions picked ranking: #110|
|Arizona quarterback protection rank: #19||Nevada pass rush rank: #94|
Matt Scott has done fairly well this year, averaging nearly 300 yards per game through the air, pretty good for a RichRod quarterback. He should do well against the Wolf Pack pass defense, perhaps netting 315 yards in an average contest. Top target Austin Hill has over 1,000 receiving yards.
Scott shouldn't have too much trouble with interceptions; though he has thrown 12 on the year, Nevada doesn't have a ball-hawking defense; expect 1 pick in the average game. Sacks shouldn't be a major problem either as Scott has been sacked 14 times and Nevada's pass rush isn't great; the Wolf Pack might expect to get to him once.
When Nevada has the ball
|Nevada rushing offense: #11
||Arizona rushing defense: #80
Nevada has long been a strong running team employing the Pistol, so they can match Arizona yard-for-yard on offense. This year's top rusher is Stefphon Jefferson with 1,703 yards. Arizona's rushing defense is only marginally better than Nevada's, so look for Jefferson to be neck-and-neck with Carey, and Nevada gaining around 260 yards on the ground.
|Nevada passing offense: #50||Arizona passing defense: #120 per att: #81|
|Nevada interceptions thrown ranking: #36||Arizona interceptions picked ranking: #59|
|Nevada quarterback protection rank: #74||Arizona pass rush rank: #113|
Cody Fajardo doesn't throw the ball extensively in Nevada's offense, but he is efficient, completing 2/3 of his passes for 17 TDs and just 7 interceptions. Against Arizona's woeful pass defense he should have a strong day, perhaps going over 300 passing yards.
Fajardo shouldn't expect to be picked off extensively, maybe just once, due to his low totals and Arizona's middling INT numbers on defense. And while Nevada's protection isn't great, neither is Arizona's pass rush, so he shouldn't be downed much more than once.
Arizona's season (7-5)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (4)
Wins vs. SR Top 25 teams (1)
Losses (5) to losing teams (0)
- #24 Toledo 24-17ot
- Oklahoma State 59-38
- South Carolina State 56-0
- @ #5 Oregon 0-49
- #19 Oregon State 35-38
- @ #7 Stanford 48-54ot
- Washington 52-17
- USC 39-36
- @ #25 UCLA 10-66
- Colorado 56-31
- @ Utah 34-24
- Arizona State 34-41
True to the reputation of their new coach, Arizona generally played incredible offense and average-to-terrible defense. Aside from three terrible games, the offense was fantastic or out of this world. The defense was average for their early contests but hit the skids a few times.
The Wildcats' only top 25 win was their first game in which they needed overtime to beat Toledo, who finished 9-3. Their best games were drubbings of Oklahoma State (59-38) and Washington (52-17). But the biggest win was beating pre-season #1 USC 39-36. Unfortunately they followed that with by far their worst game of the year, in which UCLA destroyed them 66-10; it was obviously their worst defensive performance and their worst on offense other than the Oregon shutout.
The Wildcats didn't embarrass themselves against the other top 25 teams they played, nearly beating both Oregon State and Stanford, but they lost their final against rival ASU in a late comeback.
Nevada's season (7-5)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (0)
Wins vs. SR Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (5) to losing teams (1)
- @ California 31-24
- South Florida 31-32
- Northwestern State 45-34
- @ Hawaii 69-24
- @ Texas State 34-21
- Wyoming 35-28ot
- @ UNLV 42-37
- San Diego State 38-39ot
- @ Air Force 31-48
- Fresno State 36-52
- @ New Mexico 31-24
- #23 Boise State 21-27
Nevada started the season 6-1 but lost four of their last five to finish 7-5. There wasn't really a trend of worse play, however; their schedule was to blame, being front-loaded with seven losing teams. The Wolf Pack lost only to South Florida by a point, and then to all the other bowl-eligible teams in their late season skid.
Nevada's offense was pretty average save for one great game: Hawaii, whom they beat 69-24 in Honolulu. For the defense, average was the best they got, and they didn't reach it often, allowing 32 to USF, 34 to Northwestern State, 37 to UNLV, 48 to Air Force, and 52 to Fresno State.
Among the tougher teams in their schedule, Nevada did well against San Diego State, taking the game into overtime, and lost to Boise State who made a late rally.
Arizona has a number of players on defense who are questionable for the game, and since it's such an early one there isn't much time to get healthy. Nevada is in pretty good shape overall.
- Arizona's season: +3 wins; Nevada's season: +0 wins
- Arizona's momentum: +1 wins; Nevada's momentum: -3 wins
- Arizona won final game: NO; Nevada won final game: NO
- Arizona glad to be there? yes; Nevada glad to be there: maybe
- Arizona time zones from home: 0; Nevada time zones from home: 1;
- Arizona coaching situation: stable; Nevada coaching situation: stable
Nevada's record was the same as last year's while Arizona improved by quite a bit, from no bowl to a bowl game which is significant for fan enthusiam. Both teams lost their final game to a rival mounting a big 4th quarter comeback, however, and for Nevada it was their fourth loss in five games. So the season may be a bit of a disappointment for Nevada, a bit of a plus for Arizona. Both are playing close to home, despite Nevada traveling from the Pacific time zone. The coaching situations couldn't be different between Rich Rodriguez (in his first year) and Chris Ault (coached Nevada since 1976, non-consecutively), but both are situated well in their positions, though Ault has to be nearing retirement. No announcements at this time.
Overall it appears Arizona has a bit of a mental edge; they're on the cusp of building a powerful program perhaps, and a bowl win would push things forward, while Nevada seems to be slipping back to mediocrity a few years removed from a 13-1 season.
While it's true that Arizona has done better against strong passing teams than running teams, you can't really use the Oregon game against them as Nevada is not in the same league. For Nevada, though, the fact that they haven't defeated a winning team looms large. Teams have been known to come up with their first quality win in bowl games, but so far the Wolf Pack have been beating up losing teams.
All analyses point to an Arizona win, which is why they're the solid favorite. Sometimes bowl games put the conventional wisdom on its head, so we look at the game's psychological aspects to see if we can divine some more insight. There, we have to conclude that those factors are in Arizona's favor, too. The team is on an upswing with Rich Rodriguez; the fact that this season was only as good as many of Mike Stoops' years is irrelevant, since it's RichRod's first year. The sense is that the program is building. Nevada doesn't have the same sense, so their bowl appearance is much like many other middling seasons.
The one thing that could shift the scenario is if Arizona gets overconfident. But that seems unlikely since few players on the team experienced the squad's last bowl win in 2008, and that was the only win in the last 13 years so it's not likely the team feels too cocky. We look for a high-scoring game with Arizona either jumping out strong or distancing gradually.
Prediction: Arizona 54, Nevada 40
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2012-2013 bowl game schedule.