NEVADA WOLF PACK (7-5) vs. LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE RAGIN' CAJUNS (8-4)
DEC. 20, 11 A.M. ET, NEW ORLEANS, MERCEDES-BENZ SUPERDOME (ESPN)
Season highlights: Anytime a Mountain West team knocks off a Pac-12 team, it’s a quality win. So when the Wolf Pack downed the visiting Washington State Cougars in Week 2, it was a big moment. A week later, they played Arizona, the eventual Pac-12 South champs, to a tight, 35-28 loss. However, a pair of come-from-behind road wins -- at BYU and at Hawaii -- put them on the road to bowl eligibility.
Season lowlights: Nevada killed itself with four turnovers in a 51-46 shootout loss to Boise State at home. A week later, it dropped another home game in a one-touchdown loss to Colorado State. Yet the Wolf Pack still had a chance to clinch the division at home against Fresno State, but faltered in a 40-20 loss.
Player to watch: There are only two quarterbacks in college football history to pass for 9,000 yards and rush for 3,000. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo is one of them. The other? Former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick. So far this season, Fajardo has accounted for 31 touchdowns -- 18 in the air and 13 on the ground.
Motivation: Nevada hasn’t won a bowl game since topping Boston College in the 2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Wolf Pack got dumped by Southern Miss in the 2011 Hawaii Bowl and lost a heartbreaker to Arizona in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl. After failing to qualify for a bowl game last year, there is plenty of motivation for the Wolf Pack to get back on the winning side of things.
-- Kevin Gemmell
Season highlights: The Ragin’ Cajuns bounced back from a 1-3 start -- including losses to Ole Miss and Boise State -- by winning seven of their final eight games. Perhaps the most exciting victory came on Oct. 21, when a Tuesday night TV audience watched Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris both rush for four touchdowns as Louisiana-Lafayette beat Arkansas State 55-40.
Season lowlights: The game that launched Louisiana-Lafayette’s early slide came Sept. 6, when in-state rival Louisiana Tech hammered the Ragin’ Cajuns 48-20 in Lafayette. The Ragin’ Cajuns surrendered 533 yards of total offense, and among Louisiana Tech’s touchdowns were a 99-yard run, a 78-yard pass and a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown off a Terrance Broadway pass.
Player to watch: McGuire. The sophomore running back has produced absurd numbers at times this season, including a 265-yard, four-touchdown game against Arkansas State. Overall, McGuire leads the team with 1,165 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, and he averages a whopping 7.8 yards per carry. He rushed for 100-plus yards in four of Louisiana-Lafayette’s last six games.
Motivation factor: This is the fourth year in a row that the Ragin’ Cajuns will close out the season in New Orleans. They have won their bowl game in each of the past three seasons -- one of only six teams that can make that claim -- so Mark Hudspeth’s program is proving itself as a consistent postseason performer. We’ll see if the Ragin’ Cajuns can keep it going on Dec. 20.
-- David Ching