Arizona Wildcats (-10, 64 o/u) vs New Mexico Lobos
The 2015-16 bowl season starts with the Arizona Wildcats (6-6 SU, 3-6 Pac-12) taking on the New Mexico Lobos (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West) in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl next Saturday (December 19) at University Stadium in Albuquerque (2:00 PM Eastern).
This is the 10th edition of the New Mexico Bowl, which started back in 2006. The Lobos took part in the first two iterations of their eponymous bowl game (going 1-1), but haven’t been back since. The Wildcats will be making their second appearance after beating Nevada, 49-48, back in 2012 in what was the highest-scoring New Mexico Bowl to date.
“We are looking forward to returning to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl where we have great memories from a few years ago,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said in a news release. “It’s especially important to our seniors who will now play in a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season. I know we’re ready to get to work and start preparing for a tough opponent in New Mexico.”
Rodriguez will want to remind his team of those “great memories” before this one because things have not gone so well for Arizona lately. The Wildcats lost four of five to close the regular season, including a 52-37 setback to rival Arizona State last time out. Starting QB Anu Solomon was forced to sit that game with concussion symptoms but should be 100-percent come the 19th.
With Solomon back under center, Arizona should have the upper hand on offense. The team averaged an impressive 36.8 points and 494.3 total yards per game over the course of the regular season. However, the defense has been abysmal, surrendering a shade over 35 points per contest.
The Lobos finished the season on a high note with three wins in the last four games, including a 31-24 road win at Boise State and a 47-35 home win over MAC West champion Air Force in the finale.
Lobos head coach Bob Davie, whose team has missed out on the post-season the last seven years, is excited at the prospect of staying home for the holidays.
“It has always kind of gnawed at me to see two teams, not us, playing a bowl game on our field,” said Davie. “For our first bowl game back, I want it here. I want it at home.”
The Lobos aren’t a juggernaut on offense or defense, scoring 29.3 points per game while giving up 27. But they were consistently good at home this year, dropping just one game in Albuquerque early in the year (40-21 versus Tulsa). The team will want to get its efficient run game going early, leaning on its three-pronged attack of Jhurell Pressley (846 rush yards and 6.3 yards per carry), Teriyon Gipson (766 rush yards and 5.8 YPC) and Lamar Jordan (672 rush yards and 5.3 YPC). The rushing game accounted for 38 of the team’s 49 offensive touchdowns this season.
Both teams went 6-6 against the number this year. But the Wildcats are 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl games while, as mentioned, the Lobos lost at home just once this year. New Mexico is also 4-0 ATS in their last four games as an underdog of ten or more points.
With this game in New Mexico, taking the Lobos and the points looks like the play.
Pick: New Mexico +10.
(Photo credit: Damon J. Moritz (http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=19883) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
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