Battle of the wolves
The Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5) haven’t been to a bowl game since 2015 where they beat conference foe Colorado State in the same bowl they’ll be attending this year. The Arkansas State Red Wolves (8-4) on the other hand, are no stranger to bowl games and will be playing in their eighth-straight. Arkansas State is actually the most recent team to beat UCF which was back in their 2016 postseason matchup in the Cure Bowl. Nevada sits at 5-10 all-time in bowl games and Arkansas State is 3-5.
Nevada has had quite a turnaround after finishing last year at 3-9 in Jay Norvell‘s first season leading the Wolf Pack. Nevada should have easily finished at 8-4 this season if not for a total collapse in their conference finale where they led 23-0 at UNLV before being outscored 34-6 the rest of the way. By far Nevada’s worst loss of the season that was shaping up to be a blowout before the tides turned. If Nevada can pull out this bowl win, not only would the Wolf Pack finish with a respectable 8-5 record, they would also be the winningest team in Arizona Bowl history.
It wasn’t long ago that Arkansas state was at .500 on the season at 4-4 before winning their last four games against some of the lower-end Sun Belt Conference teams. The Red Wolves played the No. 1 team in the nation, Alabama, early in the season and were hammered 7-57, which was to be expected since that’s what the Tide does to basically everyone.
Arkansas State doesn’t really have any spectacular wins this season and beating Nevada would probably be their best. They did beat UNLV at home back in September, though. Arkansas State didn’t beat a single team in conference play this season with a record of above .500.
Nevada will be missing a few key components in Arizona on Saturday as star wide receiver McLane Mannix and defensive back Nephi Sewell have both transferred following their final conference game. Mannix is headed to Lubbock, TX to play football for the Texas Tech Red Raiders after having two phenomenal years at Nevada. Mannix finished his final season with the Wolf Pack with 875 yards on 50 receptions and seven touchdowns. Sewell is headed to BYU and also had a productive year for Nevada, finishing with 53 total tackles and one interception.
Nevada sits at just a 1.5 point favorite right now and there’s a lot of people putting their money on Arkansas State which is a bit surprising to me. Nevada plays in a better conference than the Red Wolves. They took down two good teams in Hawaii and San Diego State and had a very narrow loss to Mountain West powerhouse, Boise State. Nevada is going to miss McLane Mannix, but quarterback Ty Gangi has a number of other weapons he can go to. Expect Gangi to let loose in the final game of his college career.
This shouldn’t be a bowl game that lacks offense. Nevada and Arkansas State combined for 870 yards of total offense. Should be a fun one.