Boise, Idaho is certainly not where Miami players, coaches and fans thought the team would be taking their bowl trip. But the Hurricanes are lucky to be here after a season that produced a 6-6 record and resulted in the firing of head coach Larry Coker, just four years after leading the team to back-to-back national championship games.
In the preseason, ACC media voted Miami as the favorite to win the conference championship. The Congrove Computer Rankings projected the 'Canes to be a 10-2 team. Instead, Miami needed a season-ending upset of Boston College to even gain entry to the postseason.
Despite his dismissal after the BC game, Coker was permitted to coach the team in the bowl game. His defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon, was announced on December 8 as his successor. Additionally, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal was hired as the new head coach at FIU and chose to skip the bowl game.
The troubling season for Miami included a nasty brawl with nearby FIU on October 14, and the shooting death of senior defensive lineman Bryan Pata outside his apartment complex on November 7.
Nevada performed about as expected. The Wolf Pack were projected by the Congrove Computer Rankings to be a 7-5 club and they finished 8-4. The computer was 12-0 in game-day straight up picks with Nevada.
In Chris Ault's third season, Nevada has the chance to make a name for itself by defeating one of the most high-profile schools in college football. They could care less what Miami's record is - they are well aware of the Hurricanes' five titles in nine national championship appearances since 1983.
The Wolf Pack bring a balanced offense to the table. Nevada passed for 2,229 yards and ran for 2,128 while scoring 30.9 points per game. Jeff Rowe completed 64.7 percent of his passes but was sacked 25 times. Robert Hubbard was the leading ground-gainer with 936 yards and 6 scores. Luke Lippincott had 9 TD's on the ground. Hubbard had five 100-yard games and Lippincott had two.
But defense, especially against the run, was a Miami strong suit in 2006. The Hurricanes ranked 3rd against the run, 5th in total yards allowed and 13th in points scored against. Miami surrendered just 792 rushing yards all season. The passing department is a different story, as the 'Canes allowed 2,233 yards through the air.
Miami has been a disappointment on offense as second-year starter Kyle Wright had monumental struggles and threw just 8 TD passes against 7 interceptions. Kirby Freeman took over the last three games after Wright suffered a broken thumb and will start the bowl game. Freeman has thrown 5 TD passes and 7 INT's. Still, the passing game outshone the running game with 2,295 yards versus 1,480.
Nevada's defense was tied for 8th in the nation in interceptions with 19. On the whole, the Wolf Pack allowed just 19 points per game.