A couple of All-American running backs figure to play prominent roles in deciding whether Boston College or Arizona bounce back from disappointing regular-season finales.
Andre Williams and the Eagles go for their first bowl victory in six years, while Ka'Deem Carey and the Wildcats seek a second consecutive eight-win season at the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La. on New Year's Eve.
According to Boston College coach Steve Addazio, Williams will be ''ready to roll'' after suffering an undisclosed injury early in the third quarter of a 34-31 loss at Syracuse on Nov. 30.
Williams, who battled a shoulder problem earlier in the season, was named a Heisman Trophy finalist but didn't help his chances by ending up with 29 yards and a touchdown against the Orange. The senior had piled up 897 yards – including a 339-yard effort against North Carolina State on Nov. 16 - over his previous three contests for the Eagles (7-5).
"The only opportunity we really missed is being able to get that eighth win against Syracuse," Williams said. "I really wasn't worried about Heisman polls.''
With the 16th 2,000-yard season in NCAA history, Williams ranks ninth all-time for single-season yardage with a nation-best 2,102 in 2013. He needs 84 yards against Arizona (7-5) to move past Iowa State's Troy Davis for fourth on that list.
Williams has averaged 6.4 yards per carry and run for 17 touchdowns on the way to winning the prestigious Doak Walker Award as the country's top running back.
Arizona's Carey, a Walker Award finalist, ranks second nationally behind Williams (175.2) with an average of 156.0 rushing yards per game, and this will mark the first time in the modern era (since 1980 when AP selected two first-team running backs) the AP's All-American running backs face off in a bowl.
Carey, the Wildcats' all-time leading rusher, is sixth with 1,716 yards and tied for seventh with 17 touchdowns. The junior has rushed for more than 100 yards in 15 straight games - an Arizona and Pac-12 record.
The Pac-12 offensive player of the year totaled 363 yards and five touchdowns over the final two games as Arizona upset then-No. 5 Oregon 42-16 before closing out the regular season with an ugly 58-21 loss at then-No. 13 Arizona State.
"It shouldn't define our team because we had some nice wins," said coach Rich Rodriguez, who has led Arizona to bowl games in each of his first two years.
The Wildcats, who dropped three of their last four, try to finish on a high note by securing consecutive eight-win seasons for the first time since 2008-09. They're going for a second straight bowl victory after scoring two touchdowns in the final 46 seconds in last season's 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.
Carey finished with 172 yards and three touchdowns in that contest. He could be in line for another big performance against a Boston College team that allowed 210 rushing yards to the Orange.
The Eagles also might have their hands full with dual-threat quarterback B.J. Denker, who has thrown for 2,241 yards with 14 touchdowns and run for 898 yards and 12 scores.
After a 3-4 start that included losses to No. 1 Florida State and No. 12 Clemson by a total of 24 points, Boston College ran off four consecutive victories before blowing a four-point lead with 2:08 left at Syracuse.
The Eagles have lost three straight postseason games, with their last one coming to Colin Kaepernick and Nevada in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Jan. 9, 2011. They haven't had a bowl victory since beating Michigan State in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl.
"We're excited to be playing in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl," said Addazio, who in his first season at Boston College guided the turnaround from a 2-10 finish in 2012. "Our players are excited and can't wait to get started. It's a good challenge for our team and it will be a thrilling game."
Chase Rettig has connected on 61.6 percent for his attempts for 1,804 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. Senior Alex Amidon is essentially his only target, catching 67 passes for 895 yards and five touchdowns. Nobody else on the team has more than 12 receptions.
Williams, though, will likely be the focal point against the Wildcats, who have given up an average of 187.1 rushing yards over the last nine games.
This is the first meeting between the programs.