Nevada (6–6) vs. Colorado State (7–5)
Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET (AMSN/Campus Insiders)
Reason to watch
The inaugural Arizona Bowl in Tucson, Ariz. is a rare bowl matchup of conference foes, with both Nevada and Colorado State coming from the Mountain West Conference.
The Rams’ defense will likely face a tough test against the pesky Wolf Pack running game. Nevada finished the regular season in the top 30 in the country in rushing, as sophomore James Butler (1,153 yards, eight touchdowns) and senior Don Jackson (1,025 yards, eight touchdowns) have anchored the ground attack.
While Colorado State’s defense has struggled against the run, allowing 5.2 yards per carry this season, its offense gets quality production from sophomore quarterback Nick Stevens (2,369 yards, 21 touchdowns) and junior wideout Rashard Higgins (66 receptions, 933 yards, eight touchdowns). Although Higgins’s numbers are down from last season (96 catches, 1,750 yards, 17 touchdowns), he still averages 84.8 receiving yards per game this year. The Rams also have six rushers who have scored two or more touchdowns in 2015.
Keep an eye on: Nevada defensive end Ian Seau
Wolf Pack defensive end Ian Seau was a first team All-Mountain West selection in 2015, after ranking 19th in the nation with a conference-best nine sacks.
The senior, who is the nephew of former NFL linebacker Junior Seau, totaled 38 tackles, including 15.5 for loss this season, en route to becoming the first player in Nevada history to garner back-to-back All-MWC honors. Seau also forced four fumbles, leading the league and ranking 12th in the FBS.
Did you know…?
The Arizona Bowl will mark the first time two teams from the same conference have met in a non-BCS/CFP bowl game since the 1979 Orange Bowl between Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Also, though the Rams and Wolf Pack are both members of the Mountain West, they are in different divisions and did not play each other this season. The teams last met in 2014, when Colorado State defeated Nevada 31–14. In the Rams’ victory, Higgins caught 10 passes for 194 yards with two scores. The triumph gave Colorado State its 11th win over Nevada in 13 games in the series’ history.
Following a 3–5 start to the 2015 campaign, Colorado State went on a tear to close out the regular season. The Rams won four straight to become bowl eligible, while the Wolf Pack dropped their final two games.
If Nevada doesn’t get good production from junior quarterback Tyler Stewart (15 touchdowns, seven interceptions), expect a more balanced Colorado State squad to continue its winning ways in Arizona. In Stewart’s four games this season with a passer rating over 60, his team is undefeated. When it’s under 60, however, Nevada is 2–6.