Inaugural Arizona Bowl to have Mountain West flavor
TUCSON, ARIZ. — Mountain West Conference officials did everything they could think of to prevent two of the league's teams from playing in the same bowl game.
After a barrage of emails, texts and phone calls to bowl officials, conference officials and school administrators, the conference still ended up with Nevada and Colorado State in the inaugural Arizona Bowl.
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson wasn't too pleased, issuing a long statement condemning the choice.
Once the Wolf Pack and Rams got over the initial disappointment of having to play another Mountain West team, they shrugged it off and turned their attention toward winning.
This was still a bowl game and a chance to end the season on a winning note, so it didn't matter much who the opponent was at this point.
"When the bowls came out, there was a lot of talk about the uniqueness of having a conference opponent in a bowl game," Nevada coach Brian Polian said. "To be honest with you, we didn't make a big a deal of it."
The first Arizona Bowl will be a bit of an anomaly. Tuesday's game marks the first time two teams from the same conference will play in a non-playoff bowl since Nebraska and Oklahoma in the 1979 Orange Bowl.
But it's not like these teams have years of tape on each other. Nevada (6-6) and Colorado State (7-5) did not meet this season and have met just twice since the Wolf Pack joined the Mountain West Conference in 2012.
Still, a bowl game is not like a regular conference game. Instead of a week to prepare for their opponent, coaches have about a month to come up with a game plan, which can lead to plenty of variations from what the teams normally would do.
"The wrinkles off of the base package is sometimes where the big plays happen," first-year Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said. "And then you've got to be ready for more special plays in games like this. The coaches have free time, so you've got to invent some more things to run."
A few more things to look for when Colorado State meets Nevada in the Arizona Bowl om Tuesday night at Arizona Stadium.
TURNOVER BATTLE: Nevada was one of the nation's best teams at taking care of the football, finishing tied for seventh in the FBS with 12 turnovers (seven interceptions, five fumbles). Colorado State was at the opposite end of the turnover spectrum, finishing tied for 115th with 26 turnovers lost. The Rams will need to hold onto the ball better since the Wolf Pack are so stingy with the turnovers.
PACK RUNS: It's no secret that Nevada likes to run the ball. The Wolf Pack was 29th nationally with 205.8 yards per game and was one of two FBS teams to have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. James Butler ran for 1,153 yards and Don Jackson finished with 1,029, giving Nevada a potent one-two punch. The key will be being able to have some effectiveness in the passing game to keep Colorado State from loading up against the run; the Wolf Pack are 111th nationally in passing offense with 172.1 yards per game.
RAMS RUN, TOO: Yes, this figures to be a run-heavy bowl game. Colorado State finished 34th nationally with 195.8 yards rushing per game and runs the ball close to 60 percent of the time. The Rams didn't have a 1,000-yard rusher like Nevada, but has a speed/power combination in Dalyn Dawkins and Jason Oden.
UP AND DOWN STEVENS: Colorado State sophomore quarterback Nick Stevens had a mostly solid sophomore season, leading the Mountain West Conference with 21 touchdown passes (29th nationally) and throwing for 2,369 yards. But he's also had some shaky games and has been prone to turnovers at times, throwing for 12 interceptions.
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