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2009 New Mexico Bowl Preview

Fresno State (8-4, 6-2; WAC) vs. Wyoming (6-6, 4-4; Mountain West)

December 19th, 2009 @ 4:30 PM (EST) – ESPN – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The New Mexico Bowl will officially kick of the 2009-2010 Bowl Season with the Fresno State Bulldogs and the Wyoming Cowboys. This is the 4th edition of the New Mexico Bowl, which has matched the Mountain West and the Western Athletic Conference in each renewal since its inception in 2006.

Fresno State comes into this game as the favorite. The Bulldogs played their typically aggressive non-conference schedule that included trips to Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Illinois (who they beat 53-52 on a freak last second two point conversion) and their 8-4 record is a game better than last season. This is their 2nd consecutive appearance in the New Mexico Bowl, falling 40-35 to Colorado State last December. Fresno State is coached by Pat Hill, who is in his 13th season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. His career record is 100-65 and his teams have produced a 4-5 bowl record.

Fresno State has built a great year on the strength of their offense, which finished 14th in the country in scoring at 34.3 points per game. The reason for their success certainly wasn’t their 80th ranked passing attack. No, their 9 th ranked rush offense, built on the powerful legs of tailback Ryan Matthews (who ran for 1,664 yards and 17 touchdowns) was the driving force behind their eight win season. Matthews led the nation in rush yards per game and the junior is generally considered a major NFL prospect.

That’s the good news because the Bulldogs needed every one of his yards as they finished 80th in the country in scoring defense. While they were solid against the pass at 29th, they were seriously deficient against the run at 109th! When a team finishes that well against the pass and that poorly against the run, it usually means that teams try to run far more often than they pass and that was reflected in Fresno State’s extremely low total of 7 interceptions. As their defense only forced 14 turnovers this year, the Bulldogs finished with a minus 6 turnover margin. Fresno State’s defense is simply not very good.

Wyoming is making their first bowl appearance since 2004. In head coach Dave Christensen’s first season, the Cowboys managed a 4-4 conference record and clinched a bowl berth with a 17-16 victory on the road to close out the year. Wyoming’s postseason appearance is somewhat of a miracle as they finished the season 110th in country in scoring at 16.9 points per game. Their passing offense finished 104th and their rush offense wasn’t much better at 84th! This is surprising as Christensen came from Missouri, where his offenses were routinely among the best in the country.

The Cowboys weren’t significantly better defensively either, finishing 75th nationally in scoring defense. Their rush defense was putrid at 90th and their pass defense was below average at 73rd in the country! With a minus seven turnover margin, the only good explanation for Wyoming’s bowl berth is that this team has a ton of heart because all but one of the Cowboys’ victories in 2009 came by a touchdown or less.

This game appears to be a mismatch on paper. Fresno State has a major turf burner on offense in Matthews and the Cowboys are one of the country’s worst rush defenses. After losing this game last year to the heroics of CSU’s Gartrelle Johnson, expect the Bulldogs to come in hungry and excited while Wyoming might just be happy to be there as this will be every single Cowboy’s first postseason trip.

Expect Fresno State’s powerful rush offense to dominate this game against the hapless Cowboys defense. Regardless how poor Fresno State is defensively, Wyoming simply can’t score and they certainly won’t be able to keep up with the explosive Bulldogs. Fresno State should jump on Wyoming early and the Cowboys won’t be able to catch up against a relentless and time consuming Bulldog ground game. Expect a rude welcome for Wyoming in their return to the postseason as this game should be a blowout Fresno State victory.

New Mexico Bowl Pick: Fresno State 38, Wyoming 20


by Matt Baxendell Staff Writer

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