Posted: Tuesday December 20, 2005 3:50PM; Updated: Tuesday December 20, 2005 3:50PM
Bowl Breakdown: Hawaii
UCF (8-4) vs. Nevada (8-3)
Dec. 24, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Aloha Stadium (50,000)
SI.com's Cory McCartney analyzes the matchup.
Breaking down UCF
Nevada running back B.J. Mitchell went over 100 yards rushing six times this year, including 193 against New Mexico State.
UCF snapped the nation's longest losing streak at 17 games this season, then went on to win eight of nine before losing to Tulsa in the inaugural Conference USA title game. And just what do coach GeorgeO'Leary's Knights get for losing the C-USA title? A trip to Hawaii for their first-ever bowl game.
UCF freshman Kevin Smith burst onto the scene with 976 yards and seven touchdowns in earning C-USA Freshman of the Year. Smith's presence has lessened the pressure on quarterback Steven Moffett, but he's still been known to try to do too much. Case in point: two interceptions and two lost fumbles in the C-USA title game.
Breaking down Nevada
Hall of Famer Chris Ault, in his second stint as the Wolf Pack coach, led Nevada to its first winning season since 1998 and its first bowl appearance since '96. The Wolf Pack won four straight to end the season, capped by a 38-35 win over then-No. 19 Fresno State.
Nevada has one of the most dangerous runners in the nation in WAC Offensive Player of the Year B.J. Mitchell, who ran wild in Ault's "pistol" offense, totaling 1,221 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards a carry. Quarterback Jeff Rowe (2,671 yards, 20 TDs) and a couple of dominant receivers (Caleb Spencer, Nichiren Flowers) make this a balanced attack.
With a win in Hawaii, UCF can tie the '94 Rainbow Warriors, who went from 0-12 to 9-4, for the most dramatic turnaround in I-A history. But the Golden Knights may have to be happy with simply making a bowl. Once the C-USA title game settled down, Tulsa pounded the ball and showed how vulnerable UCF is against the run. Expect Mitchell & Co. to do the same.