New Mexico Bowl Breakdown: Arizona vs. Nevada
Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)
Dec. 15, 1:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: Are you ready for some offense? The first bowl matchup of the year has shootout written all over it, as two programs with statistically similar résumés battle in Albuquerque. In one corner, there's Arizona, which ranked seventh nationally in total offense after putting up 521.8 yards per game in coach Rich Rodriguez's debut season. In the other, there's Nevada, which reeled off 502.8 yards per game to rank 11th in the country. The running game is a major factor behind both teams' offensive success, and it's easy to see why: The Wildcats' Ka'Deem Carey (146.4 yards per game) and the Wolf Pack's Stefphon Jefferson (141.9) rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the FBS in rushing yards, respectively. Offense might not be the key to this matchup, however; both teams limped through the season with scoring defenses that ranked among the bottom 30 in the nation. Whichever side can manufacture the most stops will likely take control of this game.
• Keep an eye on: Sophomore receiver Austin Hill, the target of choice for Wildcats' quarterback Matt Scott. Hill finished 12th in the country with 1,189 receiving yards and recorded a 10-catch, 259-yard outing in Arizona's 39-36 victory over then-No. 9 USC on Oct. 27. Both teams rely heavily on the ground game, but if Hill can expose Nevada's secondary, he'll add another dimension to Rodriguez's attack. Scott's arm makes that a possibility: The senior tossed 24 touchdowns and finished third in the Pac-12 with 3,238 passing yards.
• Did you know: Despite their proximity, Arizona and Nevada have not met since 1941, when the Wildcats overwhelmed the Wolf Pack, 26-7. But a home-and-home series scheduled for 2014 and '15 will pit these neighbors again in a couple of seasons.
• Final analysis: Las Vegas set the over/under for this matchup at 75.5 points, so fans of offense shouldn't come away disappointed. In the end, Arizona's Pac-12 experience will show through against Mountain West member Nevada. The Wildcats engineered a couple of noteworthy upsets by toppling Oklahoma State on Sept. 8 and USC later in the year. Meanwhile, Nevada's best win might have been a season-opening victory over Cal, which would go on to finish 3-9. The Wolf Pack's defense struggled on third down, allowing 47.2 percent of opponent conversions. Look for Arizona's trio of Scott, Hill and Carey to exploit that and emerge from the shootout.
• The pick: Arizona 35, Nevada 24