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Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Preview: Nevada, Southern Miss and What Might Have Been

Bowl season: The only time when a trip to Hawaii is runner-up to a trip to Memphis.
Bowl season: The only time when a trip to Hawaii is runner-up to a trip to Memphis.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, December 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: Hawaii's fallback option when it's eligible for the postseason.

The Sponsor: A hotel about which I can think of nothing interesting to say.

The Teams: Nevada vs. Southern Miss

How Nevada got here: A fine rebuilding year after the graduation of Colin Kaepernick. The Wolf Pack were a decent WAC team, with the only losses by large margins against former conference-mate Boise State and Oregon and the only defeat against a non-winning team coming in a one-point loss to Texas Tech. Despite cycling through two quarterbacks with varying degrees of success, the Pack averaged 271 yards through the air and almost 250 on the ground to churn out a nation's-best 583 yards overall. Nevada rang up 500 or more yards nine times on the season. Their opponents did so three times on the year, though only one of those games ended up in losses.

How Southern Miss got here: Via the Big East's contract with the Liberty and BBVA Compass bowls. Long story short: If an SEC team isn't available for the Compass Bowl's berth, then the Big East gets the Conference USA slot in the Liberty Bowl. That bumped the CUSA champion Golden Eagles out of Memphis and won them a trip to Hawaii. I'm not sure how many of them are really complaining about this. In any case, Larry Fedora's last team in Hattiesburg won 11 games on the season, including a stumper of a loss at Marshall early in the year and one of the most bizarre losses of the season against UAB late in the season. But Southern Miss still managed to derail Houston's BCS bid in the Conference USA Championship Game, which is probably a pretty good consolation prize for the Birmingham loss.

College football fans care because: It's your last chance to watch quarterback Austin Davis play.

SEC fans care because: There's no guarantee that going to North Carolina means Larry Fedora won't be your next coach. And Mississippi State, LSU and Tennessee all play the Eagles between 2014 and 2017, though now is probably a bit early to start advance scouting.

Watch this game if...: You can't sleep while waiting for Santa Claus.

The result: Southern Miss 35, Nevada 21