Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
Dec. 20, 11 a.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: It’s the first bowl game of the season -- what other reason do you need? Louisiana-Lafayette should enjoy a glorified home atmosphere in New Orleans, where they’ll welcome a Nevada squad that stood tall against Power Five competition this fall. The Wolf Pack beat Washington State 24-13 on Sept. 5 before falling at Arizona 35-28 a week later. The Ragin’ Cajuns, meanwhile, enter the postseason having won seven of their last eight games.
• Keep an eye on: Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo. The senior has rushed for 997 yards this season while averaging 6.1 yards per attempt, better marks than those of Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett. Fajardo rushed for at least 100 yards in five games in 2014 and is responsible for 101 total touchdowns in his college career. Louisiana-Lafayette’s defense gives up 6.0 yards per play, 99th nationally, so Fajardo could find plenty of room to run.
• Did you know: Louisiana-Lafayette is seeking its fourth consecutive New Orleans Bowl victory. The program has made an appearance in this game every December since 2011, the year of its first FBS bowl berth. Louisiana-Lafayette is one of only six teams with bowl wins in each of the last three years, joining Florida State, Michigan State, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas A&M. All three wins have come under coach Mark Hudspeth, who boasts an overall record of 35-16.
• Final analysis: Nevada has forced 26 turnovers this season, 23rd in the country, while Louisiana-Lafayette has turned it over only 13 times, tied for 11th. Something has to give. Regardless, this one could turn into a shootout: The Ragin’ Cajuns and Wolf Pack rank 78th and 79th nationally in scoring defense, respectively, and boast similar run-first offensive styles. But red-hot Louisiana-Lafayette gets the benefit of a home atmosphere, and Nevada’s defense is far more susceptible to the run.
• The pick: Louisiana-Lafayette 35, Nevada 28