by Nick Parsons
This is the team's third trip to Hawaii since 2005.
Last year the team went 13-1, and then beat Boise State, and then completed the run with a win vs. Boston College in the Hunger Bowl.
The Wolf Pack definitely took a "step back" this season, and started the year 1-3.
Nevada then made a switch at QB to Cody Fajardo and it started to turn things around; Fajardo benefitted from an easier schedule, but then late losses to Louisiana Tech and Utah State ended the Wolf Packs bid of an outright title.
This team runs the pistol offense and averaged 251.8 yards per game on the ground which ranked 8th in the country.
Lampford Mark led the charge with 728 yards (despite playing just seven games); Fajardo chipped in 680-yards and 11 TDs; Stefphon Jefferson led everyone with 6.1 yards per carry.
When Fajardo took over in Game 5, he went on to complete 71.4% of his passes, throwing for over 1,647 yards.
Senior QB Tyler Lantrip who started the year completed 61.8% of his passes for 1,496 yards.
Whichever QB gets the start in this game, they'll be relying heavily on WR Rishard Matthews who had 91 catches and eight TDs.
The Wolf Pack ranks 56th in the country vs. the run, giving up just over 145 yards per game; the pass-defense was much improved, ranking 28th in the nation.
Special teams were average, ranking in the middle of the pack in punt returns, kickoff returns, punts and FGs made.
The Golden Eagles went 11-2 SU and 8-4-1 ATS; the O/U was 6-7.
This year has arguably been the best in the programs history; it reached 11-wins for the first time, hammering then No. 6 undefeated Houston on the road in the Conference USA championship game.
To say this team is disgruntled with being relegated to the Hawaii Bowl would be an understatement:
“We didn’t cost this conference any money, because we ought to be in a BCS bowl,” coach Larry Fedora said after his team upset Houston in the Conference USA championship game. “Houston is not going, we ought to be going and then everybody will get their money like they want.”
The offense is centred around QB Austin Davis, who had 13 TDs to just three INTs in the final five games of the year.
RB Tracy Lampley won the MVP of the Conference USA Championship game with 240 yards and two receiving TDs; five players on this team have at least 332 rushing yards this year, and the run-game is without question a strength of this team.
Southern Miss allowed less than 100 yards rushing to opponents seven times this year, which included in three of the final four games.
The pass defense is excellent, as only four other teams in the country have picked off more passes than Southern Miss.
It's interesting to note that this team has 12 non-offensive TDs this year.
Some trends to keep in mind:
Nevada was 4-1 ATS in five non-conference games this year, and 2-1 ATS as an underdog.
The total went "under" the number in three of five non-conference games, and went "over" the number in two of three as an underdog.
Southern Miss was just 5-5 ATS this year as the favorite, but 3-1 ATS in non-conference games.
The Golden Eagles saw the total go "under" the number in three of four non-conference games, and in six of ten when playing the roll of favorite.
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