CSJ 2018 Arizona Bowl Preview: Arkansas State vs. Nevada, How to Watch and Fearless Predictions

Arkansas State vs. Nevada (Arizona Bowl)
When: Saturday, December 29, 1:15 PM EST
Where: Wildcat Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.
TV/Streaming: CBS Sports Network / CBSSports.com (subscription req’d)

Courtesy of Arkansas State Athletics

Arkansas State Red Wolves (T-1st Sun Belt West, 8-4, 5-3)

After a second week a blow out loss to Alabama, Arkansas State finished winning eight of 10 games. The Red Wolves defeated all of its other out of conference games against Tulsa on the road and UNLV at home. Its losses were within the Sun Belt to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and Louisiana.

That final loss to Louisiana cost Arkansas State from winning the West Division of the Sun Belt. Arkansas State closed the season with four straight wins, capped by a 33-7 road win at Texas State in their regular-season finale.

The Red Wolves average 282 yards per contest through the air and 182.8 yards a game on the ground this season. Arkansas State comes in ranked 45th in scoring offense with 31.8 points a game and 59th in scoring defense as they give up 26.4 points a contest.

Arkansas State is playing in a bowl for an eighth straight season– the third longest streak in the Group of 5 and ranks 15th in the nation among all FBS programs. Overall, this is the 16th bowl in the program’s history and own a 7-7-1 record all-time.

Arkansas State has played Nevada five prior times with Nevada holding a 3-2 mark. The Red Wolves claimed a 44-28 home win in 1999, the last time they played Nevada. Arkansas State and Nevada were both members of the Big West Conference from 1993-95, playing twice over that three-year span.

This is the second postseason match-up between these two school. Arkansas State defeated Nevada in the 1985 FCS playoffs 24-23.

Nevada will also be playing without two key contributors in WR McLane Mannix and S Nephi Sewell. Both are transferring to other FBS schools–Mannix to Texas Tech and Sewell to BYU.

Courtesy of Arkansas State Athletics

Key Player: QB Justice Hansen has thrown for 3,172 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has also limited his interceptions. He has thrown just six interceptions and his last interception came on Oct. 27 against Louisiana. Keeping that mark will be the key to the Red Wolves in this game, as is any turnover.

Courtesy of NWA (Marcel Murray)

Fantasy Bonus Baby: RBs Marcel Murray (793 yards, seven TDs) and Warren Wand (652 yards, four TDs) are the top backs for the Red Wolves as they like to split the running backs during games. Both will be good plays in what is expected to be a relatively high scoring game.

Courtesy of MW Connection

Nevada Wolf Pack (T-2nd Mountain West West, 7-5, 5-3)

The Wolf Pack are back in a bowl game after finishing 2017 with just a 3-9 record. Nevada won four of its last five games to get to bowl eligibility but did lose its last contest at rival UNLV in the regular season finale 34-29.

UNLV is the lone common opponent between the two schools. Arkansas State defeated the Runnin’ Rebels 27-20 at home.

The Wolf Pack averaged 285.3 passing yards per game on the season and grind out 157.8 yards per contest on the ground. Nevada is 41st in scoring offense as they put up 32.3 points per game and are 77th in scoring defense by allowing 28.1 points per contest.

Nevada’s last bowl game ironically was also the Arizona Bowl in 2015. Nevada topped Colorado State in that game, 28-23, to win its fifth bowl game in its history. Nevada is 5-10 all-time in bowl games.

Nevada is 2-4 against teams that are playing in bowl game, with the two bowl teams it beat – Hawaii and San Diego State. Arkansas State on the other hand is 0-4 against such teams.

Nevada will also be playing without two key contributors in WR McLane Mannix and S Nephi Sewell. Both are transferring to other FBS schools–Mannix to Texas Tech and Sewell to BYU.

Courtesy of Nevada Athletics

Key Player: QB Ty Gangi has passed for 3,131 yards and 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Three of those picks came in the loss to UNLV in the final week of the season. Just like Justin from Arkansas State, keeping turnovers at a minimum will be key in this game against two close teams in terms of talent level.

Courtesy of Nevada Athletics

Fantasy Bonus Baby: RB Toa Taua is in the midst of one of the best all-around rookie seasons in Wolf Pack history. The true freshman was named this year’s Mountain West Freshman of the Year, the first ever ‘Of the Year’ award winner for Nevada since joining the Mountain West, and has carried the rock 156 times this season for a team-high 816 yards and is tied for the team-high in rushing touchdowns with six. He is coming off an ankle injury but should be good to go in this game and be a force from a fantasy perspective.

Fearless Predictions:
Jamie: Arkansas State is a team that has improved over the last few years. Nevada has moved on to basketball. Arkansas State 37, Nevada 24

Kent: This game looks close to me and having two key players not in the line-up for Nevada leans towards a Red Wolf win. However, the fact that Nevada has performed better against better competition this year leans me towards Nevada in this battle of Wolves. Nevada 38, Arkansas State 34

Chuck: I just can’t ignore the fact that the Wolf Pack are missing two of their best players. The Red Wolves are good enough to take advantage. Arkansas State 28, Nevada 24