Arizona coach rich Rodriguez
The AdvoCare V100 bowl may not sound like something to plan your holiday festivities around, but as it features two BCS-conference programs, you'll certainly want to add it to your December football menu.
Arizona will represent the Pac-12 in this bowl game. The Wildcats are one of the more interesting teams of the 2013 season, if only for the fact that the coach is spread guru Rich Rodriguez and the offense can score points in a hurry.
Meanwhile, Boston College has one of the best running backs in the country in Andre Williams, and the Eagles will look to establish the ground game and notch a fifth win in their past six games.
The two teams have never met on the gridiron, which only adds to the intrigue of how each squad will prepare for the matchup. Let's take a look at some keys to the game, players to watch and make a prediction on how it will all go down.
Date & Time: Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. ET
Place: Shreveport, La.
All stats courtesy of ESPN, unless otherwise noted.
Running back Ka'Deem Carey
Carey Must Rush for Over 150 Yards
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey had an excellent season. In fact, he was so good that he eclipsed the 100-yard mark in every single game he started. But when he has the kind of game you want to watch over and over again, that's when the Wildcats often come away with an easy victory. In the team's five losses, Carey rushed for over 150 yards only once, which was in a blowout loss to Arizona State.
But Carey topped the 200-yard mark against Oregon in a 42-16 win, and he reached 232 yards in a victory over Utah. There's little chance of Boston College being able to slow him down with any sort of consistency, but there's a difference between what Carey looks like on an average day and what he looks like when he completely takes over.
If he hits the 150-yard mark, he'll likely have taken over the game and led his team to an impressive bowl victory.
Defense Must Allow 30 Points or Fewer
At times, Arizona was a much more dominant team than its 7-5 record would have you believe. Only one victory came by fewer than 10 points, and as we mentioned, this is a team that beat the Oregon Ducks by 26. In short, the offense knows how to score points, and when it does, the team usually wins.
But the key number here is 30—as in, the defense needs to hold Boston College to less than 30 points. A 24-17 loss to Washington State was the only time all season that the Wildcats lost when holding an opponent to under 30 points. Meanwhile, the team has scored at least 33 in every single victory.
B.J. Denker Must Limit Turnovers
If quarterback B.J. Denker takes care of the football, the Wildcats are a pretty safe bet to win the football game. On the season, he threw seven interceptions, and six of them came in losses. Consider too that the team's loss to Washington State was the only defeat in which Denker didn't throw a pick.
Most teams can get away with a turnover or two during a game and still have a chance to win, but the play of Denker is absolutely critical in an offense that needs a few passes here and there to keep the defense honest. Arizona is at its best when Denker can pull back on an option play and throw the ball, and if he's connecting on those passes, the defense is often put on its heels, as we saw in the game against Oregon.
Boston College RB Andre Williams
RB Andre Williams Must Averages Five Yards Per Carry
Boston College running back Andre Williams needs to have a big game if the Eagles hope to beat Arizona.
There's no other way around that fact, and you need only look at the late-season four-game winning streak in which Williams topped 260 yards three times to understand that. Naturally, one of the common denominators in each of the Eagles' five losses was Williams being unable to get consistent yardage up the middle.
Although Williams had good games in losses to Florida State and North Carolina, he averaged less than 3.2 yards per carry in each of Boston College's other three losses. In what could turn into a battle between two of the nation's top running backs, Williams must have a better day than Carey in order to help his team win.
What Direction Do the Players Want the Program to Go In?
In head coach Steve Addazio's first season, he led this team to a 7-5 record, but it was really a tale of two halves.
After seven games, the Eagles were 3-4 and staring at a potentially disappointing ending to a season in which they started 2-0. Four wins later, and that narrative was completely turned upside-down, and despite a 34-31 loss to Syracuse in the regular-season finale, it seems like the program is in a good place.
But bowl games can either set the tone for the offseason or destroy any and all momentum. With stud running back Williams graduating, it will be critical for this team to come together and end the year on a positive note.
Defense Must Allow Fewer Than 28 Points
For the final key, one needs to simply look at how many points the Eagles score compared with what they allow to the opposition. The offense manages just over 28 points per game while the defense allows, you guessed it, just under that same number.
Neither mark is particularly impressive, but if the defense allows Carey and the Arizona offense to get rolling, they will have virtually zero chance of winning. In fact, the Eagles only game in which they allowed more than 28 points and still won was a 48-34 victory over New Mexico State.
QB B.J. Denker
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr.
The aforementioned Carey is one of the most explosive running backs in the country, but he packs a powerful punch as well. If he consistently gets to the second level of the defense, the Wildcats should rack up the points early and often.
LB Marquis Flowers, Sr.
The linebacker position will be important to watch if you're an Arizona fan, because it's up to this unit to get off blocks and bring down running back Andre Williams. Flowers is a fast and physical senior who won't have trouble getting into position, but he'll need to make the plays when they're available.
CB Shaquille Richardson, Sr.
Don't expect a ton of passes to get thrown Richardson's way in this one, as Boston College doesn't have a very explosive passing attack. Even if it did, there aren't many guys who can handle Richardson at corner, so look for him to potentially make a bigger impact in run defense as he crowds toward the box to make plays.
WR Samajie Grant, Fr.
Despite being only a freshman, receiver Samajie Grant is the teams' third-leading receiver with 355 yards and a touchdown on the year. The undersized Grant will look to exploit holes in the middle of the field on play-action passes or when Denker pulls back on what initially looks like an option play.
LB Scooby Wright, Fr.
Scooby Wright sort of got lost this season in the talk of amazing Pac-12 linebackers, because fellow freshmen Myles Jack at UCLA and Addisan Gillam at Colorado were incredible. But Wright has played a key role throughout the year, especially in the 42-16 win over Oregon.
LG Cayman Bundage, So.
Arizona runs the type of offense that expects lineman to be versatile, meaning they'll have to be equally adept at pass protection and run-blocking. But the Wildcats also require guys who can get to the second level and think on their feet when Denker rolls outside the pocket, which occurs frequently. Look for the sophomore Bundage to play a key role in this area of the game.
A complete look at Arizona's depth chart can be found here.
QB Chase Rettig
RB Andre Williams, Sr.
We've already taken a look at some of Williams' accomplishments this season, so it should be quite clear how important he'll be in this game. If you're getting tired of all the speed backs who look to hit the hole and go, you'll love Williams, who uses his power to simply tear at the heart and soul of opposing defenses. Oh, and he has over 2,100 yards rushing this season.
QB Chase Rettig, Sr.
Rettig is one of those quarterbacks that isn't going to wow you with deep throws and acrobatic escapes from the pocket, but he's extremely efficient with the football and has thrown only six interceptions on the season. He's also completing more than 60 percent of his passes, and as long as he keeps the defense honest, it will help Williams get going on the ground.
DE Kaleb Ramsey, Sr.
Ramsey is a key player on the Eagles' defensive line, and he'll have his hands full trying to slow down running back Ka'Deem Carey. No one has been able to hold the Wildcats' back to fewer than 100 yards in a single game, so that should motivate Ramsey and the rest of the line.
WR David Dudeck, So.
Receiver David Dudeck hasn't put up big numbers in the stats department, but he's exactly the kind of guy that tends to have an unexpected impact in a game like this. Look for him to make a couple big plays with the attention of the Arizona defense focused elsewhere.
LB Steven Daniels, So.
With Arizona's ability to attack you from all angles on the ground, it's going to be important for linebacker Steven Daniels to play his best game of the season. At nearly 250 pounds, he should provide a tough wall for Carey or Denker to run through, but he'll need to be in the right position to make plays.
CB Bryce Jones, So.
Arizona is without an elite receiver, but that doesn't take away from the importance of maintaining good coverage. Sophomore Bryce Jones will need to play smart, especially when Denker gets outside the pocket, because it's there where he'll either tuck it and run or pull back and throw. If Jones can stay with his man, even when things break down, it will help to limit chunk plays by the offense.
A complete look at Boston College's depth chart can be found here.
Head coach Steve Addazio
Boston College head coach Steve Addazio on his star running back Andre Williams, via Michael Vega of The Boston Globe:
He completed the ninth-best rushing season in the history of college football. I’m going to say that again: He completed the ninth-best rushing season . . . in . . . the . . . history . . . of . . . college . . . football.
Addazio, on the senior class and his team's bowl game (via the same article):
I think the seniors left a legacy here and put Boston College football back on the map and really did it with class and integrity. We are looking forward to playing our 13th game and having a chance to get our eighth win. We are definitely enjoying the opportunity ahead of us and feel that our team represented Boston College in the right way.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez on the bowl game, via ArizonaWildcats.com:
Our team is looking forward to playing a very well-respected program in a very well-respected bowl game. I spoke to the committee after we got the invitation and I know they are excited to have us, and I reiterated how excited we are. I’m hoping we’ll have a large contingent of UA fans head out to Shreveport for the holidays.
Quarterback B.J. Denker after a 42-16 upset of Oregon, via CBS Sports:
It's a great feeling. This is a crazy win for our program, for our coaching staff, for our players, for our seniors. Everything went great today.
RB Ka'Deem Carey gashes Oregon
Throughout the season, Arizona has faced stiffer competition than Boston College, a fact that could make all the difference when the teams square off. Although the Eagles did tussle with both Clemson and Florida State, the Wildcats had to deal with Oregon, UCLA, Washington, USC and Arizona State.
Top to bottom, the Pac-12 is better than the ACC, but will that help the battle-tested Wildcats?
The winner of this game will be the team that is first to establish its identity on the ground. If the Eagles' Andre Williams goes for more than 250 yards yet again, Boston College will probably feel good about its chances.
But the difference in this one is going to be the versatility of Rich Rodriguez' offense, which can be so difficult to stop at times. If quarterback B.J. Denker is accurate and makes good decisions about when to keep the ball and when to hand it off, it's tough to see the offense failing to move the chains.
Unless Boston College can gash the Wildcats' defense from the very start, they probably aren't going to keep up with Arizona.
Prediction: Arizona 38, Boston College 24