Head coach Rich Rodriguez fell short of leading the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats (10-3) atop the Pac-12 this season, but he can still make a major mark in the program’s history with a third straight bowl game victory against the No. 21 Boise State Broncos (11-2) Wednesday night in the Fiesta Bowl.
Only twice in the program’s history has a coach led the program to two straight bowl victories. Rodriguez’s current run and Dick Tomey’s teams back in 1997 and 1998. In front of what is expected to be a raucous University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Rodriguez can guide his Pac-12 South champions into the history books.
The Wildcats could have corralled the outright Pac-12 title from Oregon, but fell 51-13 in the conference championship game back on Dec. 5. Still this season marked a new high for Arizona, as it reached No. 8 in the Associated Press, the highest since 1999, and put up double-digit victories for the first time in 16 years.
Rodriguez will once again turn to his dominant underclassman stars in quarterback Anu Solomon, running back Nick Wilson and receiver Cayleb Jones. In his first year under center, Solomon racked up 3,458 passing yards and 27 touchdowns while helping the Wildcats bump off Oregon earlier in the season and in big wins over Utah and Arizona State to close out the regular season.
Wilson was fourth in the Pac-12 with 107.4 rushing yards per game, totaling 1,289 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman, and the sophomore Jones was tied for fourth in the conference with nine touchdown receptions.
That trio will be charged with keeping up with a Broncos offense ranked No. 9 in the country with 39.8 points per game, thanks in large part to running back Jay Ajayi. The junior is sixth in the nation with 1,689 rushing yards and only Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon scored more touchdowns on the ground this season with 26 compared to Ajayi’s 25.
The Broncos reached the double-digit win mark for the eighth time in the last nine years, but are seeking their first bowl victory under first-year head coach Bryan Harsin. After opening the season with a disappointing 35-13 loss to Ole Miss, Boise State has won 10 of their last 11 games, and currently owns an eight-game winning streak after stomping Fresno State 28-14 for the Mountain West title.
With the over-under set at 68 points, both defenses figure to be gassed by the final whistle. The Wildcats are 73rd in the nation, conceding 27.5 points per game but send out vaunted linebacker and pro prospect Scooby Wright III and senior safety Jared Tevis. Wright led the Pac-12 with 153 total tackles, 27 tackles for a loss, and six forced fumbles while ranking third with 14.0 sacks. Tevis was third with 119 tackles and came up with two interceptions.
Boise State didn’t beat a ranked opponent all season, but with defensive lineman Kamalei Correa on its side Arizona could be its first victim. Correa led the Mountain West with 10.0 sacks and was fourth with 17 tackles for a loss. Sophomore linebacker Tanner Vallejo and his 15 tackles for a loss, and junior cornerback Donte Deayon and his five interceptions and seven passes defended will back up Correa’s might upfront.
Start Time: 4 P.M. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream: A live stream is available at Watch ESPN here
Updated Betting Odds: Arizona -3
Over/Under: 68 points
Prediction: Arizona over Boise State, 37-33