New Mexico Bowl

December 20, 2009 by USA Post 

blogSpanNew Mexico Bowl:The first bowl of the season looks like a mismatch on paper: Fresno State, winner of seven of its last eight, against a Wyoming squad with perhaps the weakest resume of any F.B.S. bowl participant. Those looking for added impetus to watch the New Mexico Bowl — as if you needed it — can look toward a matchup of second-level teams from the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences as a potential litmus test for January’s Fiesta Bowl, which pits the respective champions (Boise State and Texas Christian) of each conference. However, unlike the Fiesta, this bowl has a decided favorite. Before handing the cherished New Mexico Bowl title to Fresno State, however, take note: the Bulldogs entered this same bowl game last season as sizable favorites, but fell to a hungry Colorado State team (also from the Mountain West, like Wyoming) that preached the same ball-control, turnover-free offense the Cowboys have used to reach six wins.

New Mexico Bowl

Saturday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN

Fresno State
Four losses to four pretty good teams: Wisconsin (in overtime), Cincinnati, Boise State and Nevada. Combined regular season record of that quartet: 42-7. Nothing to be ashamed of, though Fresno State’s slate of victories, all eight of them, included only one over a team with a winning record (Idaho). The undisputed star of this team has been running back Ryan Mathews, a junior, who led the nation with 151.3 yards rushing per game; Mathews missed one game, giving the F.B.S. total rushing yardage title to Stanford’s Toby Gerhart. But the Bulldogs truly took off — winning seven of their last eight — after quarterback Ryan Coburn began to cut down on his interceptions. Though the senior finished the season with 11 picks, seven of those came in his team’s first four games, three of which were defeats. However, don’t be fooled: Fresno State will continue to assert its dominance on the ground, as the nation’s seventh-best rushing attack will face off against the nation’s 91st-best rush defense.

Despite reaching bowl eligibility, Wyoming is a team that truly does nothing well. In addition to that 91st overall rushing defense, the Cowboys finished 73rd in the country in pass defense, 86th in rushing offense and 103rd in pass offense. So how did the Cowboys get here? A win over Weber State of the F.C.S. helped, as did narrow victories over mediocre teams from U.N.L.V., New Mexico and Colorado State. Five of Wyoming’s six wins, in fact, came by a touchdown or less, with that victory over U.N.M. (an early favorite for No. 120 in the Countdown’s re-ranking in May) an unexpected blowout. But let’s give credit where credit is due: Wyoming was clearly overmatched — on a talent level — against opponents like Texas, Utah and B.Y.U., so narrow victories or no, the Cowboys beat the teams they had to beat in order to reach six wins. For their troubles, the Cowboys get to try their hand against one of the hottest teams in the nation. The key for Wyoming, as is the case with Fresno State, will be to limit turnovers; the Cowboys were plus-seven in the turnover margin on the season, putting them in the top 20 in the F.B.S.

Know Your Sponsor

The state of New Mexico
Our 47th state, known affectionately as the Land of Enchantment, features the largest Native American-speaking community in the country: Navajo, with approximately 178,000 speakers. That accounts for roughly 4 percent of the state, dwarfing the total of Cherokee- (16,000), Dakota- (18,000), Central Alaskan Yup’ik- (16,000) and Western Apache-speaking peoples of states like Oklahoma, Alaska and North Carolina.

Pick ‘Em

Pete: Fresno State. Why not? Wyoming had a nice turnaround, but the Cowboys are not quite there yet.
Thayer: Fresno State. Giddy-up Ryan Mathews.
Paul: Fresno State. I don’t think Wyoming will be handle the Bulldog run game.
Fred: Fresno State. Got to go with the Bulldogs in this one. Seems almost disrespectful that they have to play Wyoming in the first bowl game of the year.
Connor: Fresno State. Pat Hill’s mustache is enough of a reason to pick the Bulldogs. Ryan Mathews makes it a no brainer.

Records to Date

Connor: 41-24 (3-2, last Pick ‘Em)
Pete: 40-25 (4-1)
Thayer: 40-25 (4-1)
Fred: 39-26 (4-1)
Paul: 38-27 (4-1)

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