The Gildan New Mexico Bowl will kick off the 2012-2013 college football bowl season at approximately 1 p.m. ET on December 15. Many fans will tune in to the game simply for the fact that they are experiencing college football withdrawal of sorts.
Those that do sit down and watch should be in for a treat, as the first of 35 bowl games this season has a chance to be one of the highest scoring of the bunch. The reason why? The powerful offenses of both teams feature very talented players at the skill positions.
To serve as a viewer’s guide to those players, here is a list of five offensive players sure to make an impact in the New Mexico Bowl.
The sophomore wide receiver could have a field day against Nevada’s secondary, as the Wolfpack defense gives up 218 yards per game through the air.
Hill doesn’t get as much attention as some other Pac-12 receivers, such as Marquise Lee and Markus Wheaton, but was a Belitnikoff Award semifinalist like Lee. Hill had 1,189 yards on 73 receptions this season, good for 12th-best in the nation.
Due to his size (6’3’’, 211 pounds) and big-play capability, Hill has the chance to wreak havoc on Nevada’s defense, which has suffered numerous injuries in the secondary and is susceptible to giving up the big play. In addition, Arizona’s dangerous rushing game makes it likely that the Wolfpack will come up and try to stop the run, opening up the passing game.
As the quarterback of a team that racks up an average of over 520 yards per game on offense, Scott is bound to have an impact on the final score of the New Mexico Bowl.
The senior has amassed over 3,200 yards passing and 485 yards on the ground, making him a viable dual-threat option. However, Scott could end up having as much a negative impact on the success of the Wildcats offense as positive.
Scott has a tendency to turn the ball over, and although Nevada has forced only four interceptions this season, Scott’s four-turnover game against Arizona State in the regular season finale should be concerning to Arizona fans.
The bottom line: How Matt Scott takes care of the football will determine the outcome of the New Mexico Bowl.
Meet Stefphon Jefferson, the nation’s fourth-leading rusher and second in the nation in rushing touchdowns this season. Jefferson is primarily responsible for Nevada’s powerful rushing attack that averages 260 yards per game.
Arizona’s defense is porous, so it isn’t a stretch to say that Jefferson will have a good day in Albuquerque. Just how good depends on the ability of Cody Fajardo to spread out the defense with the pass game, thus preventing the Wildcats from stacking the box defensively.
Expect Jefferson to rush for over 100 yards in the New Mexico Bowl and be responsible for at least one touchdown. Otherwise, Nevada will have major issues keeping pace with Arizona’s offense.
Arizona has a counter to Stefphon Jefferson on its offense: Ka’Deem Carey. The sophomore is second in the nation with 1,757 rushing yards and has a good chance of being the national leader at the end of the bowl season.
Fast enough to outrun defenders yet powerful enough to take them on, Carey is a special weapon for the Wildcats. He has the ability to be a threat in both the running and short passing game. There is no doubt that he will be the focal point of the offense in the New Mexico Bowl, and it would be a good bet that he’ll end up on SportsCenter’s Top 10 list the next morning.
Unless you’re an Arizona fan, Carey is probably on the short list of “Best College Football Players You’ve Never Heard Of."
Of any offensive player in the New Mexico Bowl, Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo has the potential to make the biggest impact.
Like Arizona’s Matt Scott, Fajardo is a dual-threat option. However, he might be better because he doesn’t turn the ball over as often. In addition, Fajardo is much more balanced, rushing for 981 yards in addition to throwing for over 2,500.
The Wildcats are ranked next to last in the Pac-12 in run defense and last in pass defense. Fajardo’s speed is going to make it tough for Arizona to contain him as a runner, and his ability to extend the play opens up the opportunity for a wide-open receiver downfield.
Like Arizona, Nevada’s chances of winning this game hinge on the play of its talented quarterback.