ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The bowl season kicks off with the seventh annual Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 11 a.m. MT/1 p.m. ET. It pits Pac-12 member Arizona against Nevada from the Mountain West. Owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television (ERT), a subsidiary of ESPN, the bowl game will kick off the FBS postseason from University Stadium on the University of New Mexico campus and airing nationally on ESPN, ESPN 3D and ESPN Radio.
"We are very happy to host the Arizona Wildcats in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl," said Jeff Siembieda, Gildan New Mexico Bowl Executive Director. "They are a terrific, exciting football team having a tremendous season. Coach Rodriguez has done a great job in his first year with the Wildcats with some huge wins this season. U of A is first class in everything they do and we look forward to having them in Albuquerque to open the bowl season."
In the first year of the Rich Rodriguez era, the Wildcats improved from 4-8 in 2011 to 7-5 this year and became bowl-eligible for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Their last bowl game was the 2010 Alamo Bowl (36-10 loss vs. Oklahoma State) and their last bowl victory was the 2008 MAACO Las Vegas Bowl (31-21 vs. BYU). Overall, Arizona is 6-9-1 in the postseason.
Arizona is the first Pac-12 team to play in the Albuquerque-based bowl game.
The Wildcats had an up-and-down season, winning three straight non-conference games to open the year with quality wins over Toledo and Oklahoma State, but three straight losses followed to open a tough PAC-12 portion of the slate. A 49-0 wipeout at Oregon was followed by a pair of 3-point setbacks to Oregon State and Stanford. Then the Wildcats posted their two most-impressive wins of the year with home victories over Washington and USC. Inexplicably, Arizona played dead the following week and was blown out 66-10 at UCLA. Wins over Colorado and Utah preceded a disappointing loss to rival Arizona State in the season finale.
Arizona also boasts the nation’s leading rusher, Ka’Deem Carey, who has tallied 1,757 yards.
It is an interesting match-up with Nevada as the Wolf Pack has the nation's second-leading rusher in Stefphon Jefferson. Arizona is seventh in the country in total offense while Nevada is 11th.
The two programs haven't met since 1941 and the all-time series is 1-1-1.
Like Arizona, Nevada enters the game with a 7-5 record in a season that began with a win at California, only to turn around and lose at home to USF the following week. All of Nevada's wins came against sub-.500 teams, but it did take Mountain West co-champs San Diego State to overtime and saw a late rally fall short by 6 points against Boise State in the season finale. This was Nevada's first season in the Mountain West after getting caught up in the swell of conference realignment and migrating from the WAC.
Nevada is coached by Chris Ault, the only active head coach that is a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame. Ault led Nevada from 1976-1995 and returned in 2004. He is 233-107-1 all-time and 3-6 in bowl games. The school is 4-8 in bowl games overall while Arizona is 6-9-1.
The Congrove Computer Rankings project Arizona to win by 2.43 points.