AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Ka'Deem Carey and Arizona face Boston College
Who: Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) vs. Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC)
What: AdvoCare V100 Bowl (formerly the Independence Bowl)
What AdvoCare is: A health and sports wellness company
When: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 9:30 a.m. PT
Where: Shreveport, La.
Where to watch: ESPN
Passing offense: Arizona (186.8 ypg, 98th in NCAA), Boston College (150.5 ypg, 113th)
Rushing offense: Arizona (265.8 ypg, 11th), Boston College (218.1 ypg, 20th)
Scoring offense: Arizona (32.8 ppg, 42nd), Boston College (28.4 ppg, 70th)
Scoring defense: Arizona (24.7 ppg, 45th), Boston College (27.8 ppg, 73rd)
How they got here
The Wildcats went 3-0 in a straightforward non-conference schedule but lost its Pac-12 opener when first-year starting quarterback B.J. Denker had a rough go against the Washington Huskies. A game later, Arizona lost to a motivated USC Trojans team in its first game rallying behind interim coach Ed Orgeron. But the UA rallied itself thereafter, beating Utah, Colorado and California before falling at home in a close one to UCLA, then taking another tough home loss to Washington State. The biggest win came in the second-to-last game, when Arizona rode Ka'Deem Carey to drub then-No. 5 Oregon, 42-16. The Wildcats finished the regular season with an ugly loss at ASU.
After starting off 2013 with wins against Villanova and Wake Forest, the Eagles dropped their third game against their only common opponent with Arizona: BC fell 35-7 to USC in Los Angeles but two weeks later made it a game against Florida State before losing 48-34 to the national title favorites. In the next three games, the Eagles would beat Army, lose by 10 points to then-No. 3 Clemson and fall to North Carolina. They got back on the winning track with a four-game winning streak against, Virginia Tech, New Mexico State, North Carolina State and Maryland, but finished the regular season with a 34-31 loss to Syracuse.
Rich Rodriguez led the Wildcats to a 7-5 regular season for the second time in two seasons, and he did so despite losing quarterback Matt Scott to the NFL and leading wide receiver Austin Hill to a torn ACL. Behind junior Ka'Deem Carey, freestyling quarterback B.J. Denker and an improved defense, Arizona rushed its way past opponents despite them knowing what was coming. Rodriguez's patience and confidence in Denker might be the best move of the season – the quarterback arguably got the most out of his abilities after his coach refused to look into making a quarterback switch early on.
Boston College head coach Steve Addazio turned a 2-10 team from a season ago into a 7-5 squad that will attend its first bowl game in three years. The former Temple head coach and Florida Gators assistant began the season with a revealing mantra – be a dude. It happened. Addazio turned his offensive line and running back Andre Williams into intimidating dudes, and it was the latter who beat out Carey for the Doak Walker Award.
Running back Ka'Deem Carey: Carey rushed for 1,716 yards, 17 touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per run despite stacked boxes because of Arizona's lack of diversity in the passing game. He makes the Arizona offense go.
Quarterback B.J. Denker: While the streetball-styled quarterback doesn't have the strongest of arms, Denker completed 60.5 percent of his passes. He had 14 touchdowns via pass and added 12 more with his legs, rushing for 898 yards in addition to his 2,241 through the air.
Spur safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant: Playing close to the line of scrimmage at a hybrid safety position in Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense, Bondurant will disrupt any screen passes, is used on blitzes and can drop back into coverage. He led UA with four picks and nine pass break-ups, but he also had seven tackles for loss.
Running back Andre Williams: What more is there to say? The Doak Walker Award winner rushed for 2,102 yards and 17 touchdowns on a 6.4 yard-per-rush average.
Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis: The Eagles' second-leading tackler behind fellow linebacker Steele Divitto had 104 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss, which included six sacks.
Receiver Alex Amidon: The BC passing attack isn't about volume, but quarterback Chase Rettig relied upon Amidon heavily. The 6-3 senior caught 903 yards on the season, which is half of Rettig's 1,804 passing yards in 2013.
Andre Williams' NCAA-leading 175.2 rushing yards per game was 19.2 more than Ka'Deem Carey's 156 yards per game average. Respectively, they are first and second in NCAA in per game average.
BC defensive lineman Kasim Edebali was tied for 18th in the NCAA by finishing with 9.5 sacks. He also had three forced fumbles.
The Eagles totaled 35 sacks on the year, which tied them for 14th nationally. The Wildcats only compiled 21 sacks in 2013.
Boston College ranks third by averaging just 3.5 penalties per game.
Keys to the game
The Wildcats are a pretty good team on third downs, converting 46.5 percent of those plays and ranking in the top 25 nationally. That means they're not bad at pounding the ball on first and second downs with Ka'Deem Carey, but the key will be getting third and short plays regularly. Both teams' defenses struggle to stop the run, so RichRod's crew should be able to move the ball. And defensively, Arizona must force BC to be one-dimensional – it can't let play-action become a tool – while also keeping Williams from any big plays. If the Wildcats avoid quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Alex Amidon from getting into a rhythm, they'll be in good shape.
Things are a little more complicated for the Eagles in stopping the run game of Arizona and its zone-read attack. Best case for BC is confusing UA's B.J. Denker into making the wrong decisions in determining whether to pull the ball and run or hand it off to Carey. The BC defensive line, however, does have the talent to hurt the Wildcats' run game, probably more than UA's defensive line can stop Williams and Co. A lot will be on lineman Kasim Edebali and linebackers Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto to stuff Carey at the line and keep an eye on Denker.