2009 New Mexico Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 12/11/2009
2009 New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State Bulldogs (-10.5, 55) vs. Wyoming Cowboys
Saturday, Dec. 19, 4:30 pm
The 2009 NCAA football bowl season starts far from the heart of college football in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with the oh-so creatively named New Mexico Bowl. This is the fourth edition of this bowl game, and the second straight for Fresno State - the Bulldogs lost, 40-35, to Colorado State last year. This year Fresno State was 8-4, good for third in the WAC. They had a bad habit of losing to their best opponents, though, so their best win only came against Idaho.
Wyoming not only makes their New Mexico Bowl debut here, but will make their first bowl appearance since 2004. Coach Dave Christensen has the distinction of being the only first-year coach in the Mountain West to bring his team to a bowl game this season. It's arguable whether he really deserves to be there, though - they limped to a 6-6 record, and lost four of their last six. They were perhaps the least impressive of all 68 bowl teams this year, getting shut out three times and blown out twice more.
The teams haven't played each other since 1997. From 1992-97 they played every year when they were both members of the WAC. They split that series both straight up and against the spread.
Fresno State limped out of the gate this year, losing three of their first four. They have played very well since, though, going 7-1 and piling up some impressive offensive stats. There is a lot for this team to build on, and lots of reasons for the team to be optimistic about next year, so it is reasonable to assume that they will be highly motivated. They also have to know that they have a chance to win this game convincingly and make a final statement for the season. The risk is that they could be disappointed to land in this spot with this opponent and be lackadaisical in their play.
Wyoming is climbing out of a deep hole. Former Missouri offensive Coordinator Dave Christensen took over a team that averaged less than five wins a season over the last four years and is lacking in talent on both sides of the ball. He's taking a long-term approach with the team, so getting to a bowl is probably more important than winning one. The team hasn't been at their best in big games, so don't expect them to be fired up and playing beyond themselves here.
This game is all about running, and it's a horrific mismatch. Fresno State junior running back Ryan Mathews is a machine - he finished second in the country with 1,664 rushing yards, averaged better than seven yards per carry, and found the end zone 17 times. You can expect him to add to those numbers in a big way because Wyoming is just the 90th-ranked run defense, allowing 170 yards per game. Wyoming is only slightly better against the pass - 82nd - so Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn could be in for a big day as well. Good offenses had big days against Wyoming, so you can expect Fresno State to do the same.
Don't expect Fresno State to put on a defensive clinic, either. They are 97th against the pass and 111th against the run, so they haven't really stopped anyone all year. Wyoming freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has had the kind of troubles you expect from a freshman, and it has shown in the stats - Wyoming ranks in the Bottom 10 in the country in more than one offensive stat. Carta-Samuels will have more time than normal to find a target, though - Fresno State was dead last in the country in sacks. Maybe that extra time will allow Wyoming to have a better day than their average outing.
The one place where Wyoming may be able to assert themselves is on special teams. Christensen focused his efforts here from the start, and it has paid off - they are Top 15 in the country both in net punting and punt returns. That could give them a field position advantage, and they will certainly need it if they want to stay close and give themselves a chance.
Line Value and New Mexico Bowl Odds
The game opened with Fresno State favored by 10.5, and so far it hasn't moved widely from there. Fresno State has drawn about two-thirds of the early action. Given the number the line is set at it's quite possible it won't move at all. If it does it should go higher based on the action, and a couple of online books and the Vegas books are trying to push it higher. The Total opened at 55 and seems pretty solid at or near that number.
New Mexico Bowl Predictions
Given the defensive struggles of both teams, this one is likely to come down to whichever team can best take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them. It's hard not to see Fresno State as the one with that edge. They have a significantly better running game, a much better passing game, and more experience in the bowls. Wyoming won't quit, but they are clearly the second best here by a wide margin. I expect Fresno State to cover easily.
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