2008 Humanitarian Bowl Preview
by Matt Severance - 12/26/2008
Maryland (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)
Conference matchup: ACC vs. WAC
When: Tuesday, Dec. 30, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Location: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Spread: Nevada -2.5, total at 58.5
Line movement: It opened nearly everywhere as Nevada -1, so the money has flowed in on the Wolf Pack. The total, in general, has risen from between a half-point to a point-and-a-half.
Bowl history: This is Nevada's eighth bowl all-time (3-5) and fourth in a row. The Wolf Pack have fallen to New Mexico and Miami, respectively, in their past two bowl games. That Hurricanes loss came in Boise when this bowl was called the MPC Computers Bowl. Maryland is in this bowl for the first time and in college football's postseason for the third straight year. The Terps lost to Oregon State in last year's Emerald Bowl to fall to 9-11-2 all-time in bowls.
How they got here: The Terps were in great shape in the ACC as they entered November 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference. But then Ralph Friedgen's club lost three of its final four games, including the final two. Nevada won three of its final four games, and that loss was a close one at Boise State. The Wolf Pack played two schools from BCS conferences this season (Big 12 teams Texas Tech and Missouri) and were beaten by double digits in both.
Key trends: That this game is on the (blue) turf seems to heavily favor Nevada, as it is 5-0 in the past five played on the fake stuff, while the Terps are 0-4 in their past four on the surface. Hard to get a read on the over/under, as the over is 5-1 in the Wolf Pack's past six vs. teams with a winning record, but the under is 5-1 in the same stretch for the Terps against winning teams.
Best player you may not know: That would be Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick, the WAC Player of the Year. Kaepernick runs what's called the "pistol" offense, where he takes the snap just three yards from center and then runs a variation of the spread option. Kaepernick is 12th in nation with 3,594 yards of total offense, with 19 TD passes and 16 TD runs). With RB Vai Taua leading the WAC with 1,420 yards rushing, Nevada is second in the nation in rushing in averaging 291.4 yards per game and first in the country in averaging 6.24 yards per carry (Maryland is No. 73 against the run). The Wolf Pack are averaging 37.5 points and scored at least 31 in each of their final eight games.
The Nevada pass defense is last in Division I-A, so Maryland QB Chris Turner (2,318 yards, 11 touchdowns with 10 interceptions) could throw more than normal. Terps RB Da'Rel Scott (959 yards rushing) is a load, but the Wolf Pack defense has been good against the run, allowing 74.5 yards per game, third in the nation, and 71 yards rushing or less seven times.
Overview: Unfortunately for the Terps, the Wolf Pack are not ranked. Schizophrenic Maryland is 4-1 vs. ranked teams this year and (obviously) 3-4 against unranked foes. It's hard to imagine this club, which once had Orange Bowl dreams, getting too worked up about playing in cold, windy Boise in December. Nevada, meanwhile, is familiar with the blue turf and surroundings being a conference foe of Boise State. The Wolf Pack run wild over the turtles.