For a game matching a pair of 7-5 teams, the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl got itself a heck of a storyline.
The bowl grabbed the ACC's Boston College as part of its conference affiliations, and the Eagles will bring in the nation's leading rusher -- Andre Williams, who is averaging 175.2 yards per game. Then, with an open spot because the SEC could not fulfill its obligation, the Shreveport, La., bowl went out and grabbed the nation's No. 2 rusher, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (156.0 yards per game).
"Isn't that very compelling?" said Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez with a smile.
ESPN has the telecast on Dec. 31 and might mention that tidbit once or twice.
Said Carey: "Let the show begin."
It's not likely that Carey can make up the difference in yards per game -- which is the stat the NCAA uses to determine its rushing champion -- but it should be a fun in-game competition nonetheless.
Williams, listed at 6-foot, 227 pounds, is a powerful back who runs in something of a traditional power offense. Carey plays in Rodriguez's zone-read attack but also does most of his damage between the tackles. At around 207 pounds, he figures he has a bit more wiggle than Williams in the open field.
"He looks like a powerful back who can break tackles and take it some distance," Carey said of Williams. "I don't want to disrespect, but he reminds me of a fullback. With speed, though. I'm curious."
Neither team won its final regular-season game.
Boston College won four games in a row late in the season but lost 34-31 at Syracuse, when Williams had to leave the game with an injury early in the second half. He is expected to be fine for the bowl game. Arizona upset then-No. 5 Oregon on Nov. 23 before stumbling badly at rival Arizona State, 58-21, a week later.
"It is a great challenge and a great matchup," Boston College coach Steve Addazio was quoted as saying in the Boston Herald. "Not only do they have a great running back, but they have a quarterback (B.J. Denker) that has rushed for 1,000 yards (actually 898) as well.
"They are a dynamic running team, an explosive team, and you saw them beat No. 5 Oregon. It's an exciting game for us."
Certainly, it's not a bad way for college football to kick off New Year's Eve, especially with that hook at running back as they battle yard for yard.
"I want to show everybody who's the better back," Carey said. "Me and him are going to be battling."
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey has rushed for at least 119 yards in 15 consecutive games, dating to last season. He became the first UA player to be selected the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year since the program joined the then-Pac-10 in 1978. Nobody has stopped him; the best Boston College can hope for is to not let him break off big chunks of yardage at once.
--Arizona QB B.J. Denker is coming off a three-interception game against Arizona State, when he was harassed by the Sun Devils' pressure into making mistakes and bad decisions. He doesn't often threaten defenses down field, so he has to make good, quick run/pass plays in the read-option.
--Arizona LB Scooby Wright is a true freshman who is going to have to stand up big against Boston College's power attack. Wright, who has a great motor, is tied for third on the team with 78 tackles, including 9.5 for loss. He has the look of a future all-conference player, and the bowl will be great experience for him.
--Boston College RB Andre Williams, one of six Heisman finalists, will like taking aim at a smallish Arizona 3-3-5 defense. He likes to lower his shoulder and level defenders in the open field. Williams has five games of more than 200 yards this season, including 339 vs. North Carolina State. His 2,102 yards are above reproach.
--Boston College QB Chase Rettig, a senior, thrives on efficiency. He doesn't have to be a high-volume passer in the Eagles' offense, and coach Steve Addazio appreciates the way Rettig has been unselfish and resilient. He has completed 146 of 237 passes for 1,804 yards, with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.
--Boston College LB Kevin Pierre-Louis is another standout for the Eagles at the position, earning All-ACC honors after a season in which he had 104 tackles, including 10.5 for loss and six sacks. He will have to hold the edge well against Arizona's zone-read as he leads a talented linebacker corps that includes Steele Divitto in the middle.
BOWL HISTORY: Arizona, which is 7-9-1 in the postseason, is making its fifth bowl appearance in the past six seasons. The Wildcats won a thriller in the New Mexico Bowl last season, scoring 14 points in the final minute to beat Nevada 49-48. ... Boston College had a 12-year bowl streak end after the 2010 season and is making its first appearance since then. The Eagles are 13-9 in the postseason.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm a workhorse, but when you see me in the open field, I feel I have more shake moves to get away from them, where he would just lower his shoulder and bulldoze through them." -- Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, comparing himself to Boston College RB Andre Williams.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scouting the running game: Ka'Deem Carey is always option No. 1 for Arizona, but QB B.J. Denker is dangerous with his feet, too, if defenses overplay Carey. The Wildcats, will spread out defenses and play up-tempo, perhaps with a chance to wear out Boston College. Arizona averages 265.8 yards per game on the ground, and Boston College is at 218.1. One of the differences between Carey and BC's Andre Williams: Carey has 26 receptions; Williams has none.
Scouting the passing game: Neither team makes a lot of hay through the air, but Boston College receiver Alex Amidon is the most accomplished receiver in the game, with 67 catches for 895 yards and five touchdowns. Amidon at least gives BC a threat of the home-run pass. Arizona doesn't have much of that, usually working quick passes to the sideline. True freshman slot receiver Nate Phillips (42 catches, 503 yards, 7 TDs) earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.
Scouting the run defense: Which defense will help its team's running back have the better game. Boston College is 50th nationally against the run (152.8 yards per game) and will have to contend with Arizona's tempo. Arizona allows 169.8 yards per game on the ground and will have to be concerned with BC's physical style of play against a 3-3-5 scheme more suited to defending spread attacks.
Scouting the pass defense: Arizona has 16 interceptions but is prone to giving up the big play and doesn't often get great pressure on the quarterback. The Wildcats have allowed six passing plays of at least 60 yards; only four teams have allowed more. S Tra'Mayne Bondurant (four interceptions) is one to watch. Boston College is only 113th nationally in passing (150.5), so maybe Arizona can handle that. BC has only nine interceptions and ranks 104th nationally in passing efficiency defense (149.67 rating).
Scouting the special teams: Arizona has been maddeningly inconsistent in the kicking game, with punter Drew Riggleman mixing booming efforts with shanks. Rich Rodriguez, on principle, would rather go for it than kick field goals. Boston College has an edge at placekicker with All-ACC Nate Freese, who is 18 of 18 with a long of 52.
Intangibles: Each team should be fairly excited to be in the game, despite coming off disappointing losses. This is Boston College's first bowl in three years, and Arizona, because the Pac-12 had a surplus of teams, gets to go somewhere different as an at-large team. Hard to know if either team's fans will travel well, but the Wildcats might be able to draw a bit on big alumni bases in neighboring Texas.
--Boston College senior DE Kasim Edebali leads BC with 9.5 sacks, leading the way for a team that has 35 sacks, the best number for the Eagles since 2008.
--Arizona Junior WR Austin Hill, who was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist last season, returned to practice in November after suffering a torn ACL late in spring practice. He has yet to play in a game and a return during the bowl hasn't been ruled out (he has already redshirted, so he's going to lose a year of eligibility anyway), but a wiser course of action might be to wait and turn it loose in the spring.
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