College football bowl season gets underway on Saturday with a pair of potential shootouts. They are the first of 35 games over the next month, with the season finale being the national title game between Notre Dame and Alabama.
While the talent level during the first weekend of bowl games won't be on the same plateau as the Fighting Irish against the Crimson Tide, the games should be pretty exciting. It should lead to a strong start to a jam-packed month of college football.
With that in mind, let's examine both matchups and make a prediction for each.
Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Arizona Wildcats
Nevada started the season on fire. The Wolf Pack won six of their first seven games, using one of the nation's most potent rushing attacks to overwhelm opponents. They faded down the stretch, however, losing four of their final five.
Which team will come out on top?
Stefphon Jefferson leads the Wolf Pack attack. The dynamic running back gained 1,703 yards on the ground and scored 23 total touchdowns. He didn't receive less than 20 touches in any game, so Arizona can expect a heavy dose of him throughout the game.
The Wildcats will counter with a star rusher of their own in Ka'Deem Carey, whose numbers (1,757 rushing yards and 21 TDs) were nearly identical to Jefferson's. The only difference is Carey plays slightly larger role in the passing game.
Add in the fact neither defense was able to contain the running game during the regular season, and fans can expect to see a lot of big plays on the ground. Ultimately, Arizona is a deeper team and should be able to pull out a win late.
Prediction: Arizona 28, Nevada 21
Toledo Rockets vs. Utah State Aggies
A late two-game losing streak dashed Toledo's dream of playing in a BCS bowl, with fellow MAC squad Northern Illinois eventually earning the spot. It was still a successful season for the Rockets. They won nine games, including an upset of Cincinnati.
Take your pick...
Quarterback Terrance Owens is expected to play for the Rockets after missing the final game of the regular season. The dual-threat star accounted for 19 touchdowns, and his return should provide a timely boost for Toledo.
The Aggies will attempt to combat Owens and Co. with their strong defense. They rank eighth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just over 15 points per game. The linebacker duo of Zach Vigil and Jake Doughty has been dominant.
Toledo is averaging 33 points per game, so it's hard to imagine Utah State shutting down the Rockets offense completely. That said, the Aggies should be able to do enough to pick up the win and end the season on a seven-game winning streak.
Prediction: Utah State 31, Toledo 24