Get ready for a matchup between the nation's top two rushers - and a big traveling quandary for the Arizona faithful.
The Wildcats football team was selected Sunday night to play in the Dec. 15 Gildan New Mexico Bowl against Nevada. It will be Arizona's fourth bowl appearance in the last five years, but the first in the Rich Rodriguez era after completing a 7-5 campaign.
The Wildcats were left out of the bowl picture last season after finishing 4-8 and dismissing Mike Stoops midway through the year. The program's last bowl appearance was at the 2010 Alamo Bowl, which it lost 36-10 to Oklahoma State.
Arizona athletic director told the media shortly after the official announcement that the school will receive 5,000 tickets, which will be sold for $30 each.
"We're very pleased to have been invited and accepted a bid to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl," Byrne said after the team's end-of-the-year banquet at the Westin La Paloma Resort. "It's a great tribute to the seniors and the coaches and the team that have been able to return to the postseason."
Nevada (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West Conference) will make its eighth straight bowl appearance, the 13th-longest active streak in the country. The Wolfpack lost to Southern Miss in last year's Hawaii Bowl, 24-17.
Arizona is 6-9-1 all-time in bowls, but the last victory was in 2008. Nevada will bring in a 4-8 all-time bowl record.
The Wolfpack's last appearance in the New Mexico Bowl was a 23-0 loss to New Mexico in 2007. The Wildcats will be making their first appearance.
UA running back Ka'Deem Carey, who has rushed for 1,757 yards this season, owns the top spot over Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson.
But while Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch owns the total rushing yardage lead at 1,771 yards, he also has played in one more game than both running backs. The rushing title is determined by average, however, and Carey will put his 146.4 average on the line in Albuquerque against Jefferson's 141.9.
Lynch is averaging 136.2 yards per game.
Rodriguez was unaware of the storyline but was able to catch part of the Boise State-Nevada contest Saturday.
"I know they've got a really good one," Rodriguez added. "And I think they wear the same number (25).
"But they're a very good rushing team. They do a tremendous job."
Who will travel from Tucson to watch the battle remains to be seen, however. Arizona's men's basketball team will host Florida at McKale Center in a marquee nonconference contest that same day. By that time, both the Wildcats and Gators - currently ranked in the top 10 - could find themselves within the top five.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MST - or, nine hours after the scheduled 11 a.m. kickoff at University Stadium on the UNM campus.
Byrne said he plans on attending both games.
Also, Arizona has graduation planned that day.
"The nice thing is that the game is early enough in the day that I think some fans would have the opportunity to do both, if they wanted to," Byrne said.
The conflict was one of the talking points throughout Arizona's lobbying efforts for the Dec. 22 Las Vegas Bowl, which instead selected Washington to play Boise State.
The Huskies not only travel well - an attractive factor for any bowl committee - but Las Vegas Bowl media manager Mark Wallington told GOAZCATS.com on Thursday that the fact the Huskies have never played in the bowl game would be weighed, as well.
Discussions went "back and forth" throughout the week, Wallington said, until the committee ultimately decided on Washington.
Arizona and Washington were two of four Pac-12 Conference teams bunched at 7-5, along with USC and Arizona State, and playing the waiting game during the last four selections of the league's bowl tie-ins.
Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor