Arizona v. New Mexico
University Stadium — Albuquerque, NM
December 19, 2015 — 2:00 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
It has been an entire fortnight since you got to enjoy a full slate of football, and there’s no way better to kick off bowl season than to watch the first game of the opening Saturday slate. As usual, that game is the New Mexico Bowl, the Albuquerque classic that either results in blowouts or instant classics with little middle ground between the extremes. The last time the Wildcats were here, they pulled off a comeback 49-48 thriller two years ago; the Lobos’ last bowl game was also here in their home stadium, when they blew out Nevada a year after losing a nailbiter against San Jose State. What better way to kick off the holiday season than with the chance for chaos between the Pac-12 and the Mountain West?
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Arizona had an even more potent offense than last season, when they won the Pac-12 South before falling to Oregon in the conference championship game. With the loss of players like Scooby Wright III on defense and Anu Solomon on offense for long stretches of the season, the Wildcats simply couldn’t maintain their championship level from 2014. Losses in four of their final five games caused Rich Rodriguez’s team to slip down to fifth in the division standings. Their defense remains… generous, to say the least, ranking outside the top 100 in yards conceded (463.3 yards allowed per game) and points given up (35.7 points per game against). Without a two-overtime upset of Utah in the penultimate game that broke their slide, the Wildcats wouldn’t even be headed to Albuquerque. Given how lucky they are to even be bowling, Arizona should be motivated.
New Mexico Lobos
The Lobos have been invited to their first bowl game in eight years, breaking through a deep but underwhelming MWC Mountain division this season to get to seven victories and earn a trip… home. The Lobos haven’t played outside of their home state during bowl season in the past decade, so only the novelty of not reaching any bowl game in ages will serve as motivation. Only three teams in the country have a stouter red zone defense, with New Mexico allowing opponents to score on just 68.2 percent of their trips inside the Lobos 20. They also have one of the nation’s 10 best rushing attacks, which means the home team will have all the ingredients to keep the game close and wear down the clock against a far more talented Pac-12 opponent. Whether they can make that translate into an upset is another story.
What is Likely to Happen
As of the publication date, the MGM Mirage odds in Las Vegas for this contest make Arizona a 10-point favorite. Given New Mexico’s ability to stiffen up defensively in the red zone and shorten the game on the ground offensively, they should manage to win against the spread without too much difficulty. Arizona, though, probably has too much skill to end up losing this game. After allowing the Lobos to jump out to a halftime lead, the Wildcats will chip away at the scoreline in the third quarter to set up late-game theatrics in the final 15 minutes. New Mexico will give up a late touchdown on a busted play to watch their chance to claim bowl glory on home turf go up in flames. Be sure to tune in as Arizona pulls off a late victory, just like they did three years ago, rebounding from last year’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State to claim their third bowl victory in the past four years.
Arizona 28, New Mexico 27
|2015-2016 SPORTS UNBIASED BOWL PREVIEWS:|
|DECEMBER 19-24: New Mexico | Las Vegas | Camellia | Cure | New Orleans | Miami Beach | Idaho Potato | Boca Raton | Poinsettia | GoDaddy | Bahamas | Hawai'i
DECEMBER 26-30: St. Petersburg | Sun | Heart of Dallas | Pinstripe | Independence | Foster Farms | Military | Quick Lane | Armed Forces | Russell Athletic | Arizona | Texas | Birmingham | Belk | Music City | Holiday
DECEMBER 31-JANUARY 11: Peach | Orange | Cotton | Outback | Citrus | Fiesta | Rose | Sugar | TaxSlayer | Liberty | Alamo | Cactus | CFP National Championship