New Mexico Bowl Preview

 New Mexico Bowl

Dec. 22, 1:30 p.m. PST
Nevada (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Payout: $750,000
Spread: New Mexico -3
You can make a case for keeping Nevada out of the bowl season. A 6-6 record coming from a conference that really only has two good football teams doesn’t sound very enticing. But Hawaii’s birth in the BCS opened up a spot for another WAC team to go bowling and here they are. They don’t play well defensively but hey, who in the WAC actually plays defense anyways? The Wolfpack can put up numbers when they have the ball, so defense might be irrelevant in this one.
When quarterback Nick Graziano went down the team got better. Red-shirt freshman Colin Kaepernick stepped in and never looked back. In eight games of meaningful playing time, Kaepernick threw for over 200-yards in all but two appearances. In that eight game span he was only intercepted twice despite throwing 210 passes. His capabilities as a runner make the offense as dangerous as it is. He ran for over 500 yards in that limited time, good enough for second on the team behind Junior Luke Lippincott who tallied 1,380 yards and 15 TD’s on the ground.

The offense has taken some time to gel but eventually came together to help win four of their last six games to get bowl eligible. The two losses were by a combined five points at home vs. Hawaii and on the road against San Jose State. Their final game, on the road vs. Louisiana Tech, had each team searching for bowl eligibility. That win shows how far this team had come since the road losses to Nebraska and Northwestern. This team could be a real force next season and may show that against New Mexico who might have problems with the diversity Nevada can display on offense.

New Mexico is favored but if they’re going to even have a chance to win this game they’ll have to dominate it defensively. Star tailback Rodney Ferguson was ruled academically ineligible for the bowl game. Gone are his 14 total TD’s and over 1,400 total yards. Since the second leading rusher, Paul Baker, a diminutive junior, never had more than 14 carries in a game, it’s difficult to gage how he’ll respond to receiving the bulk of the carries. New Mexico will have to rely on erratic quarterback Donavan Porterie to carry the offense. Unfortunately the only real threats to catch passes are senior wide receivers Marcus Smith and Travis Brown. Both have come up big at times this year but they’ll need another option to emerge for Porterie or the Nevada safeties will help their corners with a double team on every passing down.

Overall it has been a great season for the Lobos. Three of the four losses came to bowl-bound opponents, they beat one in Air Force, won their in-state rivalry against New Mexico State and beat a BCS school on the road against Arizona. Losing Ferguson might be too much for this team though. The game will rest with their defense who rank fairly high in most statistical categories. No. 23 in total defense, No. 25 in scoring defense, No. 31 in run defense and No. 22 in pass defense. It should also be noted that this is a home game for the Lobos, that will keep them in the game even with their leading rusher sidelined.

It should be close but I’m expecting big things out of this Nevada team next year that starts right now.

Prediction:

Nevada 23 – New Mexico 21
This game will be televised in Canada on The Score
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