January 9, 2011/9:00 pm Eastern
San Francisco, CA - AT&T Park
Nevada Wolf Pack
Boston College Eagles
A year after losing to USC in San Francisco, 24-13, Boston College comes full circle with another trip to AT&T Park for what used to be the Emerald Bowl. With new title sponsorship, shifting from Diamond/Emerald Nuts to food conglomerate Kraft, the Eagles will hope that a name change will also change their fortunes in this bowl game. Without enough bowl-eligible Pac-10 teams, the Eagles kept the ACC’s streak of appearances in this bowl alive for sixth straight year. They will take their chances against an offense which proved throughout the season to be more prolific than all save national finalist Oregon. The Wolf Pack, with their Pistol, will take on an Eagles team intent on winning their first bowl since the 2007 Citrus Bowl; Nevada is hoping this will be the bowl where they end their four-game postseason losing streak. Something’s got to give on a Sunday night in the Bay Area …
- Nevada: Is there anything that QB Colin Kaepernick can’t do in Chris Ault’s offense? The senior is the first player in Division I history to record three consecutive 2000-yard passing/1000-yard rushing seasons, and is the first to throw for over 9000 and run for over 4000 yards in his college career. With 308 yards of total offense a game, Kaepernick has had one hell of a final year. One more rushing touchdown would put him past Eric Crouch for the most in a career by a college quarterback. Kaepernick will have to display the poise and leadership he has throughout his career if he is to leave with a bowl victory for the first and only time in his years in Reno.
- Boston College: Kaepernick and Nevada RB Vai Taua are going to present every bit of a threat for the Eagles defense, and it is going to fall to LB Luke Kuechly, the nation’s leading tackler, to try to stop them. With 171 total tackles, 14 for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles and two interceptions, Kuechly has been the dominant face on a defensive unit that proved itself among the twenty best in the country in 2010. As the leader of the unit, Kuechly will have to make sure every one of his teammates is on the same page, play after play, to prevent another loss on the bay.
KEY POSITIONAL BATTLE
There really isn’t anything better than seeing two elite units battle one another, and we’re getting a real treat in San Francisco on Sunday. The top-ranked rushing defense in the country belongs to Boston College; they battle the third-ranked rushing offense in the country. Nevada has seen its rushing numbers drop over 30 yards a game from last season’s averages, yet they still compile over 300 a game with Kaepernick and Taua leading the way. For the third straight season they had a top-three ground game nationally, and they present a formidable threat to the Eagles’ standing as the best at stopping teams in the trenches. Just like the Wolf Pack, BC’s numbers are no fluke — this is the fourth straight season that they’ve been in the top-15 in rushing defense. The BC front seven and Nevada’s two-headed rushing attack are going to butt heads early and often, and whoever prevails in that battle will be three-quarters of the way to victory.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Special Teams/Returns: Both teams have a net average around 38 yards a punt whenever they’re forced to kick away to the other team. Both teams have decent placekickers for kickoffs. The difference in this one could very well be the return game for each team. Nevada has a decent return game — Rishard Matthews averages over eight yards a punt return, good for top 40 in the nation, and Mike Ball picks up around 25 yards every kickoff. Boston College, on the other hand, is abysmal. Chris Fox averages over six yards less than Ball per kickoff… and the Eagles are 104th nationally in punt returns and dead last in kickoff return average. If Nevada can give its offense better field position than its opposition, as it has all season long, BC might never get the opportunity to stay in this game.
Who is most excited to be here? Nevada proved a six-point loss at Hawaii away from its very own berth as the WAC’s third BCS Buster in conference history. Boston College had to rally from a 2-5 start just to reach bowl eligibility and punch their ticket back to northern California. The Eagles have the defense to challenge the Wolf Pack — don’t forget about Mark Herzlich, back in the BC lineup and lining up alongside Kuechly after missing last season in recovery from Ewing’s sarcoma – but expect for Ault’s team to wear down BC by the second half just as they have done to opposition throughout the season. In the end Boston College just doesn’t have the firepower to get into a gunslinger’s duel with Nevada, and Kaepernick and the other Wolf Pack seniors will finally get a taste of being on the winning end of a bowl game…
PREDICTION: Nevada 34, Boston College 21