Jan. 9, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Nevada take by nation blogger Andrea Adelson: The Wolf Pack have put together the best season in school history: 12-1, WAC co-champs and a No. 15 national ranking. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has to be one of the most underrated players in the country. This past Saturday, he became just the third player in NCAA history to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season, joining Tim Tebow of Florida and Cam Newton of Auburn. Kaepernick had 155 yards rushing in a 35-17 win over Louisiana Tech, becoming the third quarterback in NCAA history to run for over 4,000 yards. He also had three rushing touchdowns, giving him 59 for his career, tied atop the NCAA rankings with Eric Crouch.
Nevada has had its breakout season because Kaepernick is running the Pistol offense to perfection. The Pistol has in fact become all the rage across the country, and that is because of inventor -- Nevada coach Chris Ault. Running back Vai Taua and Kaepernick have combined to be the most prolific rushing duo in NCAA history, passing Craig James and Eric Dickerson of SMU. After beating California earlier this year, it would send a strong statement to close out the season with yet another win over a team from an AQ conference. But keep in mind -- Nevada has lost four straight bowl games. Of course, those teams weren’t as strong as this one. I’ll come right out and say it -- Nevada can compete with anybody in the country right now.
Boston College take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Under the direction of true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig, Boston College became the first ACC program to follow a five-game losing streak with a five-game winning streak, and for that the Eagles have been rewarded with their 12th straight bowl appearance. BC reversed its fortunes with the proven formula of running the ball and playing stingy defense. Even with leading rusher Montel Harris sidelined for the final two games of the regular season, the Eagles were able to establish their ground game, thanks to true freshman backup Andre Williams, who helped lead the team to wins over Virginia and Syracuse.
Equally as important as their ability to run the ball this year has been BC’s ability to stop it. The Eagles lead the nation in rushing defense, and have allowed just 962 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, a 2.7 average per carry and only 80.2 yards per game on the ground. Much of that can be attributed to the exceptional play of linebacker Luke Kuechly, who led the nation in tackles this year and was named the most outstanding defensive player in the same bowl game last year. The Eagles have also been helped by the return of linebacker Mark Herzlich, who made a full recovery from Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer after missing the entire 2009 season.