The storyline writes itself. Especially, for those who like watching great running backs.
Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's second-leading rusher, will square off with Boston College's Andre Williams, the nation's leading rusher, in Shreveport, La.
Williams, who averaged 175.2 yards per game this season, is a big part of the quick turn around at Boston College under first-year head coach Steve Addazio. After 12 straight bowl games, the Eagles fell out of the postseason with a combined 6-18 record in 2011-12 before Addazio showed up. By leaning on Williams, he has returned BC to its winning ways, and with a win over the Wildcats, would give Eagles fans its first eight-win campaign since 2009.
Out in the desert, Rich Rodriguez is 2-for-2 in getting Arizona to the postseason after back-to-back 7-5 regular seasons behind his signature zone-read option offense. RichRod is 7-0 against non-conference opponents since showing up in Tucson.
Both teams lost their season finale and the bi-coastal battle in the bayou will be the first time Arizona and Boston College have ever faced one another.
Arizona vs. Boston College
Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Arizona -7.5
Arizona's Key to Victory: Ka'Deem Carey
It isn't normally this simple but for Arizona to win, its best player has to be great. Carey has topped the 100-yard mark in all 11 games this year and has 15 straight 100-yard efforts entering this bowl game. His signature performance of the season came in the season's penultimate game against Oregon, in which he rushed 48 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns in the upset win over the Ducks. RichRod's zone-read offense starts and ends with Carey's ability to carry the football and he will be looked to for another heavy workload. Carey carried the ball 80 times in his final two games of the season against two of the best three teams in the Pac-12.
Boston College's Key to Victory: Andre Williams
Much like Arizona with Carey, Williams is Boston College's best player, and he has to be great for BC to win. Williams wasn't nearly as consistent as his Wildcats counterpart. He rushed for just 38 yards on 17 carries against USC, 70 yards on 24 carries against Clemson and an injury kept Williams to just 29 yards on nine carries against Syracuse. The Eagles lost all three games. The Doak Walker Award winner should be at full strength and should find room against a Wildcats defense that ranks 71st nationally in stopping the run at 169.8 yards per game.
Key Player: B.J. Denker, QB, Arizona
This game is appointment viewing based solely on the two players mentioned above. But the outcome could come down to which quarterback plays better. Chase Rettig is a better passer for Boston College but hasn't been asked to do much under the new regime. Denker, meanwhile, has the ability to change a game in a hurry... for either team. He has excellent athletic ability — see his 898 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing this season — but will make ill-advised throws at times — see his three interceptions and no touchdowns against Arizona State in the season finale. If Denker is efficient and protects the football while moving the ball with his legs, he gives Arizona a complimentary piece and balance that Boston College lacks.
The first meeting between the Wildcats and Eagles should be a entertaining back-and-forth affair between two great rushing attacks. Arizona has faced a dramatically tougher schedule and may have the edge at the quarterback position. Both defenses struggle to stop the run so the nation's leading rusher in the last two seasons (Carey in 2012, Williams in '13) should find plenty of room to operate. Whichever defense can get a critical stop on third down in the fourth quarter will likely walk away with a win. Otherwise, the last team with the ball may win. Carey and Williams combined for 3,818 yards rushing and 34 rushing touchdowns this season so buckle up.
Prediction: Arizona 34, Boston College 31