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WBAA Bowl Blog: An Earthshaking Start

Stan Jastrzebski

This will sound strange, but living in Indiana most of the last 20 years, I'm no stranger to earthquakes.

And yet, as I prepared to cover the Foster Farms Bowl here in Santa Clara, CA, I didn't even think of the possibility of temblors.

Welcome to California.

I checked and quakes this large are pretty common. There's been an average of about one per day in the last month here in Cali.

And so, with that auspicious start, I prepare to watch the sun rise over Levi's Stadium, which I can see out my hotel window. It looks vaguely like someone split open a multi-story midwestern mall (which, of course, sells nothing but jeans), and plopped a football stadium down inside of it. Each gate is sponsored by a tech company here in Silicon Valley, with its name in neon above the patrons who now flock to see Jimmy Garoppalo on Sundays.

But later today, they (and I) will enter to see Purdue and Arizona. Purdue is clearly the team with more storylines:

-- The new coach with the reputation as an offensive innovator.

-- The fact that said coach's team actually is one of the LOWEST-scoring teams in major-college football this year.

-- The fact that a team whose defense has been historically bad the past few seasons is now in the top-20 nationally for fewest points allowed.

-- Oh, and did we mention it's the first time in five (money-losing, fan-depressing, stadium-emptying, coach-hiring-and-firing) seasons they've been in the postseason?

Arizona has a great offense -- a top-five rushing attack which threatens to score every time its dynamic quarterback, Khalil Tate touches the ball. This season, Tate has rushed for more yards (1353) than he's gained through the air (1289).

But here's perhaps the perfect encapsulation of Arizona's season: in a game earlier this year against Colorado (the not-so-hard-charging Buffaloes finished with a 2-7 record in the Pac-12 this year), Tate wasn't even the starter, but rushed for 327 yards -- that's the most rushing yards by a quarterback in any Div. I-A game ever. He also tallied four touchdowns on the ground, in addition to completing 12 of his 13 passes for 154 yards and another score.

Arizona won that game by three points.

So the Wildcats are the ones who look more like a team that might be coached, stereotypically, by Boilermaker head man Jeff Brohm. A team with a motto like: "As long we outscore the other guys, who cares how many we give up?!"

But Brohm's team is stingy -- on both sides of the ball. They average 23 points a game and their opponents average 19. The average score of a Wildcat game, by contrast, is 42-34.

So it's like this for Purdue: stop Khalil Tate and you stop Arizona. Oh, and scoring a few more points wouldn't hurt, either. Kickoff is in less than 12 hours.