ACC: Nevada Wolf Pack
Jan. 9, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Nevada take by nation blogger Andrea Adelson: The Wolf Pack have put together the best season in school history: 12-1, WAC co-champs and a No. 15 national ranking. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has to be one of the most underrated players in the country. This past Saturday, he became just the third player in NCAA history to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season, joining Tim Tebow of Florida and Cam Newton of Auburn. Kaepernick had 155 yards rushing in a 35-17 win over Louisiana Tech, becoming the third quarterback in NCAA history to run for over 4,000 yards. He also had three rushing touchdowns, giving him 59 for his career, tied atop the NCAA rankings with Eric Crouch.
Nevada has had its breakout season because Kaepernick is running the Pistol offense to perfection. The Pistol has in fact become all the rage across the country, and that is because of inventor -- Nevada coach Chris Ault. Running back Vai Taua and Kaepernick have combined to be the most prolific rushing duo in NCAA history, passing Craig James and Eric Dickerson of SMU. After beating California earlier this year, it would send a strong statement to close out the season with yet another win over a team from an AQ conference. But keep in mind -- Nevada has lost four straight bowl games. Of course, those teams weren’t as strong as this one. I’ll come right out and say it -- Nevada can compete with anybody in the country right now.
Boston College take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Under the direction of true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig, Boston College became the first ACC program to follow a five-game losing streak with a five-game winning streak, and for that the Eagles have been rewarded with their 12th straight bowl appearance. BC reversed its fortunes with the proven formula of running the ball and playing stingy defense. Even with leading rusher Montel Harris sidelined for the final two games of the regular season, the Eagles were able to establish their ground game, thanks to true freshman backup Andre Williams, who helped lead the team to wins over Virginia and Syracuse.
Equally as important as their ability to run the ball this year has been BC’s ability to stop it. The Eagles lead the nation in rushing defense, and have allowed just 962 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, a 2.7 average per carry and only 80.2 yards per game on the ground. Much of that can be attributed to the exceptional play of linebacker Luke Kuechly, who led the nation in tackles this year and was named the most outstanding defensive player in the same bowl game last year. The Eagles have also been helped by the return of linebacker Mark Herzlich, who made a full recovery from Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer after missing the entire 2009 season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
WHO TO WATCH: Senior linebacker Moise Fokou. He has a team-best five sacks and his pressure on Colin Kaepernick will be integral. The former walk-on leads the Terps with 11 tackles for loss. His five sacks are the most by a Maryland linebacker since Shawne Merriman had a team-best 8.5 in 2004.
WHAT TO WATCH: Maryland's defensive adjustments in the second half. The Terps will need the first half to figure out Nevada's unique offense, and they have been at their best in the second half this season. Maryland held ACC opponents to an average of 141 yards and 6.6 points in the second half this year, but will be without former defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, who was hired at Kansas State.
WHY TO WATCH: The Terps have won three of their past four bowl games and are the ACC's next chance at improving upon the league's 2-3 record.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
In early December, Maryland linebacker Dave Philistin was one of the few players who got a phone call from his position coach, former defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, informing Philistin of his decision to take a job at Kansas State.
What Philistin didn't realize after he hung up the phone was that Cosh wouldn't coach the Terps in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl. Cosh left so abruptly that not even his interim replacement, assistant Al Seamonson, got a chance to talk to him about it.
"It's huge," Philistin said. "What surprised me was the timing of it. I thought he was going to do the bowl game and then afterwards part ways. It's pretty devastating. You don't know what to think when you go to work the next day, but everything happens for a reason.
"What you lose is a sense of guidance almost. This guy has been my mentor for the past two seasons as an inside linebacker. It's like where do I go now? Especially for a bowl game. Coach Cosh, he knows his stuff. He preps us well as far as the game plan and all that."
Of all the opponents Maryland needs to be at its sharpest on defense for this season, Nevada would be at the top of the list. The Wolf Pack boast a 2,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver. Oh, and the quarterback rushed for more than 1,000 yards, too.
"It's crazy," Philistin said. "I haven't heard anything about them except when I watch film, but the way they play, you would think you hear more about them."
The Wolf Pack have quietly put together one of the most productive offenses in the country, as Nevada is No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense, fifth in total offense, and 12th in scoring offense. They're among the best at earning first downs and controlling the clock.
"They put up a lot of yards," Navarre said. "They're a big-play offense. A lot of plays we watched the quarterback was going for 60 yards and the running back was going for 60 yards. The quarterback, he's 6-6, he's not real heavy but he runs real fast. He's got real long legs. He's not going to juke you or anything, but once he gets in stride he's gone."
Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 2,479 yards with 19 touchdown and five interceptions during the regular season. The sophomore also rushed for 1,115 yards with 16 rushing touchdowns, ranking 12th in the nation in total offense (299.5 ypg).
The Terps will also have to worry about sophomore running back Vai Taua, who had 1,420 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 213 carries. He ranks ninth in the nation in rushing. Senior wide receiver Marko Mitchell is Kaepernick's favorite target, having recorded 56 receptions for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season.
Still, it was only good enough to finish in a tie for second place in the Western Athletic Conference.
Maryland's defense isn't bad -- they've only allowed more than 30 points twice this season -- but it was as inconsistent as the entire team.