Previewing BC's Bowl Game with James Kelley of The Daily Wildcat

Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., Boston College aims for its first bowl victory since 2007 against Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. The opponent: a stout University of Arizona football team led by one of the best rushers in college football, Ka'Deem Carey. Both teams are facing each other for the first time, and an AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl trophy is on the line.

The Gavel (denoted by bold print) chatted with James Kelley, the sports editor of The Daily Wildcat, to find out more about BC's bowl foe from the Southwest:

While Andre Williams is the primary source of production for BC, Chase Rettig has a potent downfield target in senior wideout Alex Amidon. Do you think Arizona has a secondary that can stop the deep threat, especially on drives that are composed mostly of running plays? How will they stay on their toes, per se?

Generally Arizona’s secondary can hold their own against potent deep threats. The Wildcats are sixth in a tough Pac-12 going into the Dec. 30 games in pass defense. However, they have had lapses where they gave up big plays. For example, they opened the USC game by giving up a 62-yard touchdown pass and a 63-yard scoring strike. They have a few lapses, but they should stay on their toes, Arizona runs their practices very fast, with game clock type clocks and quick segments.

Last year was Rich Rodriguez's first season as Arizona's head coach, and from the looks of it, it was a successful one--8-5, bowl game win over Nevada, etc… How important is year two in establishing consistency for the program? Has he expressed loftier goals for the team going forward?

Last year was a big surprise. The Wildcats had lost 10 games in a row to FBS teams in 2010-2011 and the bottom had fallen out of the program. Plus Rodriguez’s teams tend to start slow and get better – he went 3-9 his first year at Michigan and 3-8 his first season at West Virginia. His teams got better each year though and so before the season I asked if he was worried that fans might have too high of expectations for this year. He laughed and said he hoped that the fans have high expectations. He hasn’t made a big point of winning a conference championship in a certain amount of time though, other than saying when he got hired “why not Arizona?” in reference to winning big in the desert.

Infographic courtesy of

Infographic courtesy of

BJ Denker (and any dual-threat quarterback against BC) worries me. Do you think he'll opt for the scramble a lot in this game?

Denker is a very good running quarterback. He’s sixth in the conference in rushing going into the Dec. 30 games, but most of his yardage comes in designed run plays, like the option. On pass plays, he doesn’t normally scramble a lot, at least not as much as you would expect. He’s not super fast, but he has good vision and when he runs the ball looks like a running back.

Ka'Deem Carey's stat line against a very good Oregon team was incredible; he had 48 carries for 206 yards and four touchdowns as UA upset Oregon. Do you think he needs to put up a similar game to beat BC, or will another factor carry Arizona past the Eagles?

Carey has run for at least 100 yards in 15 straight games, but he probably won’t get 200 plus yards. In that game Arizona jumped out to a big lead and they gave him the ball more to run the clock down. Last year when he won the rushing title he had a better season. This year with a less reliable passing game and less holes, Carey has had to fight for almost every yard and hasn’t broken many really long runs like last year. Denker is probably the key, will he play like he did against Oregon, going 19-of-22 passes for 178 yards passing and running for 102 yards, or like he did at ASU, where he threw three interceptions or something in between? Carey is pretty certain to gain 100 yards, but Denker is a mystery.

Who gets more yards: Andre or Ka'Deem?

Probably Andre -- he’s had a better season and Arizona’s defense, the 3-3-5 stack, is normally more equipped to face passing or spread teams than smash mouth football. The Wildcats’ run defense is a bit worse than their pass defense, seventh in the Pac-12 as of Dec. 30, giving up 169.8 yards per game. Williams should get at least that.

And, finally: Who wins?

Except for a two-week stretch where they lost to Washington State and then upset Oregon, Arizona has beaten all the teams it was supposed to beat and lost to the teams it was supposed to lose to. This game should be a better match-up than UA’s games against FCS or rebuilding teams like California and Colorado or their games against the teams that went to the top Pac-12 bowls, however. I’ll have to give the edge to Arizona because they’re better battle tested, coming from what many have called the second best conference this year. Arizona 34 Boston College 31.

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Born in New York, from Philadelphia, but meant to live in New England.