Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
One Cal defensive coordinator candidate is in action for Utah State in our Saturday bowl open thread.
For only the second time in the last 10 years, our California Golden Bears are not participants in the college bowl frenzy. Phooey. Maybe next year, Coach Sonny Dykes will take us bowling again. But this year, we are stuck watching other teams go bowling. And because we're college football fans, we'll watch. And if you're entered in CGB's Bowl Pick 'Em contest (and it's not too late to enter here), you'll be watching because YOU PLAY...TO WIN...THE POOL!
The bowl season kicks off with one of our Pac-12 brethren taking on a team with which we are all too familiar. The Arizona Wildcats take on the Nevada Wolf Pack in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Cal didn't play Arizona this season, but we all remember that Nevada spoiled Memorial Stadium's grand reopening in the season opener. (And it was pretty much downhill after that now, wasn't it?) The Worldwide Leader will televise this one at 10 am PT and gives us this preview:
The similarities between Arizona and Nevada are striking.
They boast two of the country's most prolific offenses and are led by two of the nation's leading rushers, and they also share a big resemblance defensively -- being they really don't play any.
In what is shaping up to be a high-scoring New Mexico Bowl, Arizona and Nevada square off in Albuquerque on Saturday.
The Wildcats and Wolf Pack each had high hopes for one of the more prestigious bowl games with the way their seasons started.
Arizona (7-5) got as high as No. 22 in the poll after opening 3-0, which included a 59-38 victory over then-No. 18 Oklahoma State on Sept. 8. The Wildcats were then quickly brought back to earth with a 49-0 loss to third-ranked Oregon in their fourth game, and any chance of appearing in their first Rose Bowl was dashed with an 0-3 start in Pac-12 play.
Nevada got off to a 6-1 start to become bowl eligible but also finished 7-5.
"There's no question we should have won nine games," coach Chris Ault said two days after Nevada concluded the regular season with a 27-21 loss to then-No. 25 Boise State on Dec. 1.
Ault was then quick to point out why his team fell short of expectations, adding, "it's playing with a defense that's inconsistent."
The Wolf Pack are allowing an average of 32.5 points and are 13th-worst in the FBS against the run, giving up 213.2 yards per game. One of their biggest weaknesses is on third down, as they let opponents convert 47.2 percent of the time for the nation's 12th-worst mark.
As bad as Nevada's defense is, Arizona's might be worse.
The Wildcats rank 103rd out of 124 FBS schools in scoring defense at 34.3 points per game and are fifth-worst in total defense with an average of 485.7 yards allowed. Thirty of the 52 touchdowns Rich Rodriguez's 3-3-5 defense gave up came on the ground, which is tied for the ninth-most.
After things are wrapped up in Albuquerque, it's time for the smurf turf in Boise, where two nine-win teams from mid-major conferences hook up in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl The Toledo Rockets from the mighty MAC will take on the Utah State Aggies from the WAC. Utah State coach Gary Andersen has been a hot coaching commodity and was reportedly a candidate for the Cal job before Dykes was hired. The Worldwide Leader will televise this one at 1:30 pm PT and gives us this preview:
Though Utah State's only bowl victory in seven tries came over Ball State in the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl, it has reason to be confident heading into this contest. Looking to win seven straight in a season for the first time since 1965, the Aggies have outscored their last six opponents 269-108.
"It's our chance to finish off the year right," senior linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu said.
Senior Kerwynn Williams has averaged 7.6 yards per carry during the six-game win streak and led the WAC with 1,277 rushing yards while scoring 17 touchdowns -- 12 on the ground. He's recorded three straight 100-yard games, averaging 130.7 during that stretch.
Sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton ran for 527 yards and seven TDs while finishing as the 13th-rated passer in the FBS. He completed 67.7 percent of his throws for 3,144 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Keeton was sacked just six times over the final six games while the Utah State defense totaled 25, including 13 in a 49-27 win over No. 24 San Jose State on Oct. 13. The Aggies finished among the national leaders in sacks (39), points allowed (15.4 per game) and total defense (322.7 ypg).
They'll need to be at their defensive best in this first meeting with Toledo (9-3), which averages 32.9 points and was ranked as high No. 23 this season.
"It's a good matchup -- they're talented," Rockets safety Jermaine Robinson said. "They have a good running back and an athletic quarterback. Those two put together with their defense makes it a great challenge, but we're going to do what we have to do to win this game."
The preseason favorite to win the Mid-American Conference West title, Toledo beat then-No. 21 Cincinnati 29-23 on Oct. 20 as part of an eight-game winning streak. That run ended with consecutive losses to Ball State and Orange Bowl-bound Northern Illinois as the Rockets settled for third place in the West.
However, a win Saturday will give the program its first season of double-digit victories since going 10-2 in 2001.
For Cal-watching purposes, Utah State defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has been circulated as a potential candidate for the same position here. (UPDATE: Aranda has reportedly been offered the DC jobs at both Cal and Texas Tech.) So watch out for how his defense performs.
Let the bowls begin. Comment here as you watch: this is your open thread. Enjoy the games!