Ohio vs. Nevada


3:30 P.M. FRIDAY


What: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise, Idaho


Records: Ohio 6-6, Nevada 7-5


Favorite: Ohio by 8


Series: First meeting


How much senior Nathan Rourke has meant to Ohio cannot be overstated. But where he may go next is unclear.


Rourke will play his final game for Ohio against Nevada in the Potato Bowl. It will cap a steady career in which he went 23-13 as starting quarterback and left what will be a long-standing legacy in the school’s record book. He is first in passing yards per game, passing efficiency, touchdowns scored and touchdowns responsible for. His 9,860 yards of total offense are second, and the list goes on and on.


“You couldn't ask for a guy who is a better leader, who had great work ethic, who sets the pace for the rest of his teammates and a guy that's got talent,” coach Frank Solich said.


But to look at pro prospect ratings, Rourke is nowhere to be found. He is listed at 6 feet 1 -- a couple of inches shorter than most NFL quarterbacks -- and 210 pounds. Despite his efficiency, his career passing accuracy of 58.8% for the Bobcats isn’t eye-popping. He has been invited to compete in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 18, 2020, in Pasadena, California, which would put him in front of NFL scouts.


“It's going to be a matter of how the pros look at him, how they look at his arm strength and accuracy level and all those kinds of things,” Solich said. “I think they're intrigued by him, and they want to see him in person.”


One place where Rourke’s name has popped up is his home country, Canada. The Oakville, Ontario, native was third on a list of top-20 prospects from the Canadian Football League scouting bureau. Rourke is the sole quarterback on the list, which includes Canadians only. Overall, he is behind Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and Notre Dame receiver Chase Claypool.


Both of them are on the NFL radar.


“It's difficult for me to judge it,” Solich said of O’Rourke’s NFL chances. “I'm biased. He's got a tremendous amount of talent.”


The final challenge will be Nevada, which will unleash defensive end Dom Peterson at Rourke. The sophomore has eight sacks and 13.3 tackles for loss. He’s also forced a fumble.


The Wolf Pack, which went 4-4 in Mountain West Conference play, enters the game on a low note, a 33-30 overtime loss to UNLV in which four defenders were suspended for a postgame brawl. Three will miss the Potato Bowl — backs Austin Arnold and Daniel Brown and tackle Hausia Sekona — and linebacker Gabriel Sewell must sit out the first half.


The loss came after a three-game winning streak that left the Wolf Pack eligible for a bowl for the second straight year under coach Jay Norvell.


“Their season hasn't been too far from ours,” Solich said. “They've had some great wins and they've had a few disappointing losses that were very close ballgames.”


Nevada favors the pass on offense, averaging 237.1 yards compared with 122.8 rushing. Quarterback Carson Strong has passed for 1,933 yards and 10 touchdowns, and receiver Elijah Cooks has 729 yards and seven touchdowns.


But the spotlight mostly will fall on Rourke in his final game before the unknown.


“It’ll hit me at some point,” Rourke told the Athens Post. “It’s been a pleasure to play for Ohio, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities they’ve given me. It’s been a great group to play with, so I’d love to be able to get one more shot out there.”


Cincinnati vs. Boston College


3 P.M. THURSDAY, BIRMINGHAM, ALA.


In the American Athletic Conference, first place puts you in position for the Cotton Bowl. A five-point loss in the conference championship game puts you in the Birmingham Bowl. Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder, who has fought a shoulder injury in his throwing arm, is expected to be fully healthy, putting the team in good position for its 11th win in coach Luke Fickell's third season.


bhofmann@dispatch.com


@BrianHofmann