Here are the key matchups for the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
When the Ragin’ Cajuns have the ball
1. Quarterback Terrance Broadway has been at his deadliest this season when he’s moving with the ball. He hasn’t been as effective as a passer, but he has made teams pay with his physical running ability, and he’s been particularly adept at finding first down markers.
2. The Cajuns offense will go as Elijah McGuire goes. He is capable of scoring on any play, averaging 8.3 yards every time he touches the ball. The Cajuns would do well to feed him early and often as they try to establish the tone against a solid Wolf Pack defensive front.
3. Their numbers aren’t overly gaudy, but Nevada defensive linemen Ian Seau, Brock Hekking, Rykeem Yates and Lenny Jones form an excellent unit as a whole. The Cajuns have an experienced offensive line, but it’ll have its hands full with this group from Reno.
When the Wolf Pack has the ball
1. All eyes will be on Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo, who can beat defenses with both his arm and his legs. Fajardo will certainly eclipse 1,000 yards in this game, and any time a mobile quarterback is involved, it forces a defense to defend against 11 players rather than 10.
2. One of the things that makes the Wolf Pack so hard to defend is their refusal to rely on one or two playmakers. Nevada spreads the ball around evenly, as four players had at least 32 catches and three ball carriers topped 620 yards on the ground.
3. Cajuns defensive lineman Christian Ringo is sure to see plenty of double teams Saturday, since teams used the double team to effectively limit his impact the last two weeks of the season. Other defenders need to step up in the pass rush to help out.
Two of the Cajuns’ three New Orleans Bowl victories have been decided by a last-minute field goal. If that’s the case again Saturday, who has the leg up? The Cajuns have a more consistent kicker in Hunter Stover, who has drilled all 15 of his attempts inside 40 yards this year, but Nevada’s Brent Zuzo has better range. This could be an interesting factor.