The day has finally arrived.
On New Year's Eve, the Arizona Wildcats return to the Fiesta Bowl for the first time since 1993, when they trampled Miami 29-0. This time around the Wildcats will face off against the Broncos of Boise State, a team with a storied Fiesta Bowl history.
Arizona is out to prove that it belongs in one of the New Year's Six bowl games after getting a nationally televised beat down at the hands to Oregon just about a month ago.
The game will be important for some of the Wildcats to show that they are better than they have shown in previous weeks. One such player is quarterback Anu Solomon, who was slowed in the second half of the season with a bum ankle.
“The season has been a roller coaster,” Solomon said. “We have had our ups and downs and for me, just as a critical aspect, I felt like I have not improved.
“In the second half of the season I kind of just dropped down and it is one thing I have struggled with, just being consistent on a daily basis. That is something I have to work on and something I have to fight with.
“Some people say it is expected because I am a freshman, but it is still something I try to avoid. It still catches up with me and I need to fight it off.”
Solomon is going to have his opportunity, but will need to lean on freshman running back Nick Wilson if the offense is going to run smoothly. Both are in their first year of playing time, but have shown that they can play beyond their young ages.
“They don’t look like freshmen,” Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. “If you watch those guys play, you wouldn’t think either one of them was a redshirt freshman or true freshman."
On the opposite side of the ball, Arizona will have to stop a two-headed monster that is equally as impressive.
The Broncos' offense is led by running back Jay Ajayi, who has filled the stat sheet with almost 1,700 yards on the ground. The Wildcats will need to slow him down in order to succeed.
"They have a really good running back that doesn't want to go to the ground," Arizona defensive lineman Dan Pettinato said. "He's always running with his shoulder pads low. I think the key to that would be tackling. We're going to have to be able to contain."
Outside of Ajayi, the Broncos biggest threat is quarterback Grant Hedrick. He is the most accurate quarterback in the country and has been on a roll in recent weeks after two four interception games early in the season.
Similar to Ajayi, Arizona will have its hands full with Hedrick.
"Our defense is going to have to do really well on pass-rush," Pettinato said. "We're going to have to disrupt him. We can't let him sit in the pocket and choose who he wants to throw it to. We have to get in the pocket and cause trouble."
With two high powered offenses, the game may come down to the opposite side of the ball: defense. Whichever team can slow down the other the most, is going to come out victorious.
"Doing your job, the little things," Boise State linebacker Tanner Vallejo said about the key to stopping Arizona. "That's what we've been doing the past couple weeks. We've been holding teams to under 20 points. If we're the better defense on the 31st, better than their defense, then we'll win the game."
Whatever happens in the game, a victor will be crowned before the new year.
Keys to the Game: