Nevada (7-5) takes on No. 21 Southern Miss (11-2) in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Saturday night in Honolulu. The Wolf Pack are quite familiar with their surroundings in Aloha Stadium, as they are making their fourth straight trip to the islands for a game. They are 0-3 in their past three appearances (two losses to Hawaii in regular-season play, one loss to SMU in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl). Meanwhile, Southern Miss stunned Houston in the Conference USA championship game and is making its 10th straight bowl appearance. That is tied with Boise State for the longest active streak among non-AQ schools.
Who to watch: Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis. What Davis has accomplished in his Southern Miss career truly is remarkable. He walked onto the team with no guarantee of getting playing time, but became a four-year starter and broke all of Brett Favre's passing records. Davis now has career marks of 10,727 passing yards, 81 touchdown passes, a 61.6 completion percentage, and 12,082 total offensive yards. His impressive career earned him the Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the best player in the nation who began his career as a walk-on. He can run, too, and was second on the team with 101 carries.
What to watch: How Cody Fajardo leads Nevada. The Wolf Pack have been an incredibly inconsistent team this season. They had a heck of a nonconference schedule and changed quarterbacks, deciding to go with the redshirt freshman. He has made plays, completing 71.4 percent of his passes, but he also has taken his share of lumps and has been called out for not fighting through injuries. Nevada was in position to win the WAC but lost at home to Louisiana Tech, ending the season with losses in two of its final three games. In fact, Nevada is one of four teams in the postseason that did not beat a bowl-eligible team all year.
Why to watch: This is the last game for Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, who was hired to be the head coach at North Carolina. Fedora led this team to its first 10-win regular season since 1952 -- only the third time the mark has been reached in school history. The Golden Eagles also reappeared in the national polls for the first time since 2004, and won their first C-USA division title since 2006. This is a coach who elevated the program, and allowing him to coach one final game is a nice tribute.
Prediction: Southern Miss 35, Nevada 20. The Golden Eagles have the superior offense and defense, and truly are one of the better teams in the country this season. They will prove it in Hawaii.