Matt Hanifan: Nevada win the Arizona Bowl against Arkansas State 31-27
Nevada is coming off their worst loss of the season, in their most important game. However, the season is not over. Yes, they have a much tougher test ahead of them but it does not mean they are not capable of winning this game.
Arkansas State has a stout passing game with Justice Hansen — accumulating a 67 percent completion percentage, throwing for over 3,000 yards with 27 touchdowns and six interceptions. Nevada’s pass defense has progressively gotten better over the last four games, surrendering only 216.2 passing yards per game in the last five games. However, the Red Wolves are surrendering 376.6 yards per game, as opposed to Nevada’s 378.3.
The Red Wolves have two talented running backs Warren Rand who averages 5.2 yards per carry and Marcel Murray who averages 5.8. Nevada is 34th in the nation in rush defense, allowing only 135.2 rush yards per game. Despite missing key defensive lineman Korey Rush — due to a broken foot — I still believe that the Pack will able to contain the rush, allowing 110 rush yards per game in three games without Rush.
The key to the game is who can play better defense, and I believe that Nevada can step up their game after their abysmal showing against their bitter rival. The Wolf Pack has arguably played better competition this season — all of Arkansas State’s eight wins have come against non-bowl teams, while Nevada has two wins against bowl teams in six tries.
Isaiah Burrows: Will Nevada will lose the Arizona Bowl against Arkansas State 41-24
Nevada’s 7-5 season earned them their first bowl invitation since 2015, but the Red Wolves’ potent offense will prove to be too much for the Wolf Pack.
Arkansas State averaged 31.8 points per game this season. Hansen put together another solid outing behind center, passing for 3,172 yards and 27 touchdowns to go along with a 67 percent completion rate. Running backs Murray and Rand combined for over 1,400 rushing yards on the ground as well.
Those numbers don’t bode well for Nevada’s leaky defense that’s surrendered 28.1 points per game this season. The Pack will also be without safety Nephi Sewell who announced his transfer from the university on Monday, Dec. 3. Sewell played a crucial role in coverage and wrapped up tackles in the open field.
The Red Wolves’ three-headed monster put together an 8-4 season and fourth-straight bowl appearance. In a neutral site game, both teams are 3-3 away from home, but one of Arkansas State’s losses is against No. 1 ranked Alabama so the Red Wolves have a greater road schedule.
Arkansas State’s offensive attack through the air and on the ground will take a toll on the Wolf Pack’s defensive front as the game goes along, ultimately ending in double-digit defeat.
Matt Hanifan and Isaiah Burrows can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.