Don’t lie — you wish you were going to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl for Christmas Eve, no matter who is playing in the game. Of course, all but 10 Nevada fans disagree with that statement, but if you close your eyes and think of a football game in Hawaii, it’s bound to make you smile.
But kickoff is still a few days away, so maybe the Wolf Pack’s fans will make last-minute travel plans to spend Christmas in Hawaii! OK, maybe not. Well, here’s your preview for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl nevertheless.
More: See the other bowl games
Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5, 5-2 WAC) vs. No. 21 Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (11-2, 6-2 C-USA), Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011, 8 p.m. [ESPN]
If you’re looking for a game that’s going to keep you up into the wee hours of Christmas morning, watching a barnburner that may go to overtime, this isn’t going to be your year. If you’re looking to have the visions of sugarplums dancing in your head mighty early, you’re going to enjoy this blowout.
Southern Miss will be playing for the final time under head coach Larry Fedora, who is leaving to coach North Carolina after this game. The Golden Eagles will play to get one more win for their departing coach, or so we assume. Coming off a victory that ended Houston’s perfect season, USM is the champion of Conference-USA and sitting on a two-game winning streak.
Their two losses this year are to UAB and Marshall, a pair of rather mediocre teams. So I guess it’s not completely ridiculous to think they could lose to a mediocre Nevada squad.
But Southern Miss has an X-factor that will keep them from losing to another mediocre team — a really good quarterback. Austin Davis has better career numbers than USM’s most famous football alum: Brett Favre. And yes, Favre was that good when he was in college.
Add an average of 207.8 rushing yards to that great passing game, and it makes sense that Southern Miss would outscore a high-powered offense like Houston in their last game. It would also make sense to say that Nevada is screwed in this matchup.
If the Wolf Pack want to stay in this game, they’ll need to rely on their own running game, which ranks ninth in the country with 251.8 rushing yards per game. Controlling time of possession with long drives that eat away at the clock with lots of running plays would be one way to keep the ball away from USM’s offense. But can they execute their game plan, or will USM’s defense hold up to their 21.1 points per game allowed?
Believe me, if Nevada scores 21 points in this game (or fewer), they won’t win. It will take 30 points at least to run with the Golden Eagles, and it’s a long shot that they’ll be able to do that.
Expect to see Fedora get one last win as head coach of Southern Miss.
My prediction: Southern Miss 37, Nevada 17