2008 Humanitarian Bowl – Nevada Wolfpack vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Pick

Nevada Wolf Pack -2, 58 O/U (7-5) 4-5-1 ATS, 7-3 O/U vs. Maryland Terrapins +2, 58 O/U (7-5) 6-5 ATS, 4-7 O/U Tuesday, December 30, Humanitarian Bowl at Bronco Stadium (30,000) Boise, Idaho
4:30 p.m. EST, TV: ESPN-2 by Wilson of Predictem.com

Maryland is heading into their third consecutive bowl appearance, and six in the past eight years. The Terrapins will look to get back in the win column after losing their last bowl game to Oregon State 21-14 in the 2007 Emerald Bowl.

Nevada also lost their previous bowl game last season to New Mexico 23-0 in the New Mexico Bowl. But the Wolf Pack boasts the nation’s third best defense versus the run, and they are eighth in sacks with an average of 2 per game.

This will be the first ever meeting between these two programs. Both teams have can move the ball down the field but it will be Nevada with the advantage in this matchup as they appear to have the upper hand both on the ground and through the air. The Wolf Pack averages 274 rushing yards per contest, and behind the leadership of QB Colin Kaepernick, who can be very dangerous both with the pass and the scramble, will be a lot to handle for the Terrapins.

Nevada is averaging 37.5 points per game and allowing 31.8 to their opponents. As great as they are against the run, it’s the pass that kills them. The Wolf Pack secondary is suspect as they give up 323 yards in the air per game! You can bet that the Terrapins will try to exploit this weakness.

Maryland has gone on a rollercoaster ride this season as far as wins and losses. They beat teams like California and Clemson but then lost to Virginia 31-0 and to Middle-Tennessee 24-14. The Terrapins closed out the season by losing three out of their last four games. This bowl game will give them a chance to go out with a win and help motivate next year’s campaign.

The Wolf Pack will need to tighten the rope on defense, especially in the secondary as they ranked last out of 120 teams against the pass. On the other side of the ball, Maryland’s offense is ranked 65th in passing offense which doesn’t exactly help them, but maybe they make a few key plays and that might be the difference in the outcome.

Nevada’s star running back, Vai Taua, is currently the country’s 9th leading rusher with 118 yards per game. The Terrapins must slow him down if they want any shot at this bowl game.

The books in Vegas and online are leaning towards Nevada (favoritism?) by a safety (-2), but this could go way over the total of 58 if both defenses fail to do their jobs.

This bowl game is a long ways away from 1947, when both of these teams made their first bowl game appearance. Nevada beat North Texas, 13-6 in the Salad Bowl, while Maryland tied with the Georgia Bulldogs 20-20 in the Gator Bowl.

The Wolf Pack is 4-2 as the favorite this season, and the Terrapins are 4-3 as the dog. Who will strike first? I like the Wolf Pack’s chances behind Taua and Kaepernick’s game. Terrapins QB, Chris Turner has thrown 10 interceptions to just 11 touchdowns this season. If the Wolf Pack can figure it the pass defense they should win this game.

Wilson’s Pick: Nevada is more efficient on both sides of the ball. The key for the Wolf Pack victory will be pass defense and establishing the run. Nevada 42, Maryland 31. Luck to ya.