The Nevada football team is returning to the Arizona Bowl.
The Wolf Pack, which played in the bowl’s inaugural matchup, will battle Arkansas State in Tucson, Ariz., on Dec. 29 (kickoff is at 10:15 a.m. on CBS Sports Network). Nevada played in the Arizona Bowl in its last postseason game in 2015, a 28-23 win over Mountain West contemporary Colorado State. This year’s appearance snaps a modest two-game bowl drought. Thirteen members of the Wolf Pack’s current team were on that 2015 Arizona Bowl roster.
Nevada, which went 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the MW, will face a similar caliber of opponent when it takes on Arkansas State, which was 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the Sun Belt, where it was a West Division co-champ.
The Sagarin ratings place Arkansas State seven spots ahead of Nevada; ESPN’s Football Power Index places Nevada two spots ahead of Arkansas State. Nevada averaged 32.3 ppg to Arkansas State's 31.8 ppg. Arkansas State gave up 26.5 ppg to Nevada's 28.1 ppg. Both teams have experienced senior quarterbacks who transferred in from other schools. Both threw for more than 3,000 yards and at least 23 touchdowns. Both teams recorded 32 sacks. Both even have similar nicknames, Nevada's Wolf Pack versus Arkansas State's Red Wolves.
“We are honored to have this awesome opportunity to play in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl,” Nevada’s second-year head coach Jay Norvell said in a news release. “Arkansas State is a terrific program and we are excited for the challenge of playing them. I’m thrilled for our 17 seniors to have a chance to play in one more college game in their careers.”
Nevada, which went 3-9 last season before a four-game improvement in 2018, will play in a bowl for the 16th time in school history. It is only the fourth time in Nevada’s modern era it has reached a bowl under a coach other than Chris Ault and the first time the Wolf Pack has gone bowling under Norvell.
Nevada is coming off a 34-29 loss to UNLV after leading 23-0 and will aim for the program’s eighth season with eight-plus wins since moving to the FBS in 1992. The last time the Wolf Pack won at least eight games was 2010 when it went 13-1. Nevada is 2-4 against bowl teams this season and 5-1 against non-bowl opponents. Arkansas State is 0-4 against bowl teams this season and 8-0 against non-bowl teams. That includes a win over Louisiana Monroe, which was bowl eligible but didn't make the postseason.
The only similar opponent played by Nevada and Arkansas State this season is UNLV, which the Red Wolves beat, 27-20, at home.
Nevada and Arkansas State, both former members of the Big West, have met six times previously with the last meeting coming in 1999. The Wolf Pack is 4-2 all-time against the Red Wolves. That includes a Division I-AA playoff game, a 24-23 first-round win by Nevada in 1985.
In other MW bowls: Fresno State will play Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl; Boise State will play Boston College in the First Responder Bowl; Utah State will play North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl; Hawaii will play Louisiana Tech in the Hawaii Bowl; and San Diego State will play Ohio in the Frisco Bowl.
WOLF PACK’S ALL-TIME BOWL RESULTS
1947 Salad Bowl, Beat North Texas, 13-6
1948 Harbor Bowl, Lost to Villanova, 27-7
1992 Las Vegas Bowl, Lost to Bowling Green, 35-34
1995 Las Vegas Bowl, Lost to Toledo, 40-37 (OT)
1996 Las Vegas Bowl, Beat Ball State, 18-15
2005 Hawaii Bowl, Beat Central Florida, 49-48 (OT)
2006 MPC Computers Bowl, Lost to Miami (Fla.), 21-20
2007 New Mexico Bowl, Lost to New Mexico, 23-0
2008 Humanitarian Bowl, Lost to Maryland, 42-35
2009 Hawaii Bowl, Lost to SMU, 45-10
2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Beat Boston College, 20-13
2011 Hawaii Bowl, Lost to Southern Miss, 24-17
2012 New Mexico Bowl, Lost to Arizona, 49-48
2014 New Orleans Bowl, Lost to Louisiana-Lafayette, 16-3
2015 Arizona Bowl, Beat Colorado State, 28-23