New Mexico Lobos (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Arizona Wildcats (6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Date/Time: December 19, 2015 2:00PM EST
Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM.
by WILSON, NCAAF Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NM +10/AZ -10
Over/Under Total: 63
One of the first bowl games of the season gets under way on December 19th as the University of Arizona Wildcats take on the New Mexico Lobos in the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque. This will be the first appearance in a bowl game for the Lobos since 2007 when they defeated a Colin Kaepernick led Nevada Wolfpack 23-0. This is the second time these two teams have met in a bowl game as they went head to head back in 1997 at the Insight.com Bowl where Arizona won 20-14; before that game New Mexico had not been to a bowl since 1961. However these two teams do have a rivalry that dates back to 1908 with Arizona winning the first meeting 10-6 in Albuquerque. The Wildcats lead the series 43-20-3. New Mexico looks forward to their home field advantage which they will need against the heavily favored (-10) Wildcats from the Pac-12.
Arizona has had better years (win/loss records) and this season was a bit of a letdown after a couple of eight-win seasons and last year’s 10-4 record but they still bring a potentially dangerous attack behind the offensive play of running back Nick Wilson (5.5 yards per touch, eight TDs), QB Anu Solomon (20 TDs on the season, 63 % completion rate), and WR Cayleb Jones who has 51 catches for 726 yds., and four TDs. The Wildcat’s offense is averaging 36 points per contest.
The weakness for Arizona has been injuries, particularly on defense this year. They lost their best linebacker, Scooby Wright, back in September to a foot injury among others. However, the latest news from the Arizona Wildcat’s football program is that Scooby Wright is back on the practice field and will more than likely play in the bowl game. He has been in full practice mode since last Monday, “It’s definitely gonna be fun!” said Wright regarding the chance to defend against New Mexico’s Triple-option offense. Arizona’s defense has allowed an average of 35.7 points per game to their opponents. This justifies their 6-6 record because they also score an average of 36 points per game. The comeback of Scooby Wright should help fine tune the Wildcat defense and contain the running game of the Lobos at least somewhat. In fact, Wright might be exactly what the Wildcats need to indeed cover the spread in this contest.
New Mexico runs the football—period. They have a trio of runners who orchestrate the ground attack. Leading the rushing game are senior RB Jhurell Pressley and junior Teriyon Gipson, and sophomore QB Lamar Jordan. Each of these players ran for over 650 yards while collectively scoring 23 touchdowns. The Lobos do almost nothing with the passing game—it will be run, run, run, and maybe an occasional toss to a patient receiver. Defensively, the Lobos give up their share of points as well to opponents with an average of 27 points per game allowed while offensively they average nearly 30 points per game.
Although the Wildcats are favored it will be worth considering New Mexico to be in this game as they are basically playing a home game. The Lobos will not need to make any adjustments based on stadium atmosphere or familiarity of the field, so this may play a role in their ability to execute their game plan more effectively even versus a stronger, more skilled defense in Arizona. Both teams are faced with the urgency to prepare for this matchup given they are first up on the bowl docket. Players will still be taking fall final exams during bowl prep with some actually completing their exams from their hotel rooms in Albuquerque and yes, the Lobos players are also staying in a hotel even though they are technically home—NCAA rules apply here.
As the favorite, Arizona is 4-2 ATS. New Mexico is 4-3 ATS as the underdog. The Wildcats are a touchdown better than the Lobos on average per game. The return of Wildcat’s defensive star LB Scooby Wright to help stop the running game of New Mexico should prove enough to slow down any hopes of a Lobos upset. I like the Wildcats but I do not think they will cover the current point spread—New Mexico is at home and extremely eager to get a bowl win—they keep it close and cover the points. Luck to ya.
WILSON’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I like New Mexico to cover the spread.
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