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Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Amongst the brethren of guest writers on the site these days, there is plenty of expertise across a wide range of sports. For the NCAA Bowl series, James Jack, @materialista27, has stepped up with some previews. Read more of his work on his special College Bowl site.

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Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Saturday December 15th, 11am MT (6pm GMT)
University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Arizona Wildcats


The New Mexico Bowl, sponsored by sportswear manufacturer Gildan has been played annually at the University of New Mexico since 2006. Since its founding, the bowl has been typically scheduled as one of the earliest contests, and has always been played before Christmas.

Starting last season, the New Mexico Bowl features a team from the Mountain West Conference (MWC) and a team from the Pacific-12 Conference (PAC12), provided both conferences have enough bowl eligible teams. If they do not, the selection committee will choose an at-large team

The game is the only annually nationally televised sporting event in the state of New Mexico. The current champions of the New Mexico Bowl are Temple who beat Wyoming 37-15 in the 2011 game.

This year’s New Mexico Bowl will be a match up between two former territories of Mexico, playing in a third former territory of Mexico. Despite its early position in the bowl season, this game could be a cracker.

Nevada is coming off a 7-5 season, and has a great running back in Stephon Jackson with over 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns. Nevada’s last game of the season was a heartbreaker against Boise State where Boise’s conference title was on the line. Nevada spoiled the Broncos’ National Title tilt 2 years ago, however that was never really on the cards. Nevada is also appearing in their eighth straight bowl, something some SEC teams like Auburn and Tennessee could only dream of. The main question for Nevada is whether they can establish their run game, to chew up time on the clock and ground down the Arizona defensive line.

Arizona is of course led by the all-knowing Rich Rodriguez and features an equally powerful run-first offense.

Arizona has suffered from poor head coaching in the same way many Rich Rodriguez-led teams have:
1. Have a decent start
2. Mid-season floundering
3. Give way to mediocrity on offense and atrociousness on defense and fall apart at bowl time.

For Arizona to win
Rodriguez brought his turbocharged offensive scheme with him to Tucson and found a quarterback in Matt Scott who’s ideally suited for it. Certainly more suited to it than the Denard Robinson and the rest of the Michigan system. UA averaged more than 38 points per game and trailing only Oregon in the PAC12. The Wildcats need to maintain their high yards per play stat from the regular season, establishing Ka’Deem Carey on the ground and allowing Scott to unleash his monster arm in play-action situations. The Nevada run defense is pretty poor and opposition teams have averaged 5 yards per carry against the Wolf Pack in a schedule which included Fresno State, Air Force and Hawaii.

The only problem for this Arizona team is how its own defense performs. They’ve struggled at times against the run, and with Nevada’s ground game, they may struggle here.

Nevada
Tailback Stefphon Jefferson and quarterback Cody Fajardo have combined on the season to run for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 33 touchdowns on the ground. The gameplan, run the damn ball, and if that doesn’t work, run the ball some more. Fajardo finished with a 17-7 TD-INT ratio, so they need to protect the ball.

They need to break Arizona’s unorthodox 3-3 Odd Stack which they have struggled to implement. Arizona barely finished the season with a positive points differential, so points are available and it’s pretty difficult to find one thing that their defense did that wasn’t subpar.

The struggle for Nevada is how to pick themselves up after a difficult second half of the season, they started 6-1 and slumped to a 1-4 finish and they only just scraped past New Mexico in this very stadium.

VERDICT
A classic shoot-out to open this year’s bowl season. Plenty of running and as the game develops; both teams will try to air it out. For me, Arizona has the better passing game, and that’ll be the difference in this game. Tight at the half, but Arizona will soon open up a two touchdown lead and ground down the clock to finish the Wolf Pack.

ADVICE
Arizona -7.5
Under 76 pts

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