Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Game Preview: Keys To A Nevada Win vs. Tulane
The Wolf Pack are back on the blue against the AAC’s Tulane Green Wave. Here’s our preview of how Nevada can win the Potato Bowl.
How can the Wolf Pack finish strong?
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL: Tulane Green Wave (6-5, 3-5 AAC) vs. Nevada Wolf Pack (6-2)
WHEN: Tuesday, December 22 — 12:30 PM PT/1:30 PM MT
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium; Boise, ID
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes ESPN, by following this link.
You can also find the audio broadcast on TuneIn.
RADIO: The Nevada broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Wolf Pack Radio Network, including flagship 94.5 FM in Reno. The Tulane broadcast can be found on 104.1 FM in and around New Orleans.
SERIES RECORD: Tulane leads the overall series 1-0. In the lone previous meeting on September 26, 1992, the Green Wave defeated the Wolf Pack in New Orleans, 34-17.
LAST GAME: Nevada lost to San Jose State on the “road” in Las Vegas, 30-20, while Tulane won at home against Memphis, 35-21.
ODDS (as of 12/20, via Bet MGM): Tulane -3
SP+ PROJECTION: Tulane by 5.4 (62% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Tulane by 3.7
For the second straight year, the Nevada Wolf Pack are back on the blue turf for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. This time around, however, you might consider that the stakes are a little higher than usual.
Because of the ongoing concurrent waves of bowl cancelations and teams backing out of bowl season, the resulting shuffle sent an opponent from the American Athletic Conference, rather than the usual Mid-American Conference foe, to Albertson’s Stadium. That opponent, the Tulane Green Wave, is in the midst of its most successful stretch in nearly 40 years, and they weren’t that far away from being a major factor in the race to the top of the AAC.
Here’s how Nevada can secure a Potato Bowl win over Tulane.
Three Keys to a Nevada Victory
1. Contain the ground game.
Tulane’s best weapon for keeping the Wolf Pack offense off the field will be its own rushing attack and, unfortunately for Nevada, it was a group effort that will test their resolve. The trio of Stephon Huderson, Cameron Carroll, and Amare Jones combined to average 5.83 yards per carry on 297 carries.
Having a healthy Dom Peterson back in action will certainly help matters, but they weren’t pushovers without him in the regular season’s last couple weeks, collecting a combined ten tackles for loss against Fresno State and San Jose State.
2. Force Michael Pratt to make plays.
There’s no doubt that the freshman quarterback proved to be a stabilizing force for the Green Wave offense once he ascended to the starting role after a couple weeks, but the areas in which he clearly struggled are areas that Nevada can really swing this game in their favor.
It comes down to three different things. First, Tulane hasn’t been great overall about protecting the quarterback and their 9.2% sack rate allowed, which ranks 108th among FBS teams. Pratt was arguably the AAC’s worst quarterback in third-down situations, as well, with a 40% completion rate and just 16 first downs (a 29% rate) in 55 pass attempts, and he was much better while playing with a lead than playing from behind. If Nevada can strike first and seize a comfortable advantage on the scoreboard early, they could force Tulane to play the kind of game it doesn’t want.
3. Protect Carson Strong.
The numbers suggest that Tulane’s pass defense can be beaten — only Temple gave up more yards per attempt and a higher opponents’ passer rating than the Green Wave — but it is imperative that Nevada’s offensive line give Carson Strong the time he needs to make plays because Tulane has an awesome pass rush.
Tulane averaged 3.27 sacks per game, which ranks in a tie for tenth in the FBS, and that was a group effort, as well, though as Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray noted, that depth will see some work. JOKER Patrick Johnson was the headliner throughout Tulane’s season with ten sacks, but he’ll be out of the bowl game following his father’s passing. Cameron Sample, an all-AAC defensive end who finished with five sacks, is a game-time decision.
All in all, however,, seven Green Wave defenders had at least 2.5 sacks, so they can still do some damage even without their biggest stars.
This game seems most likely to come down to whichever defense can force a stop or, even better, can create a turnover. The amount of havoc that Tulane has been able to create would seem to give them an edge on this front, not just in terms of sacks but in the fact that they have also created 19 takeaways in their 11 games.
All other things being equal, this will probably end up being one more frustrating close call that breaks against the Wolf Pack.
Tulane 35, Nevada 31