The New Mexico Bowl is one of the many bowl games that will be affected by injuries and transfer portal departures, but it should still be an intriguing game to watch. We’ll preview the showdown between SMU and BYU and go over which side we’ll be backing.
The BYU Cougars ended the season with three straight wins and finished with a (7-5) record. Tonight the Cougars' will look different than the regular season due to quarterback Jaren Hall's inability to play due to injury and the team's second-leading tackler Keenan Pili being in the transfer portal. BYU will also be without linebacker Payton Wilgar.
A big question is now what do the Cougars do at the quarterback position with Hall hurt and backup quarterback Jacob Conover already in the transfer portal. It seems as if Cade Fennegen will get the start at QB, which will be his first career appearance for the Cougars.
BYU will need to rely heavily on running back Christopher Brooks, who led the team with 725 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The Cougars ran a fairly balanced attack on offense this season, but if they turn to a run-heavy game plan for the game, they should still be able to find success against the SMU defense that allowed an average of 212.4 rushing yards a game.
The SMU defense was a significant weakness for the (7-5) Mustangs, as they ranked 122nd in the county in points per game and 124th in the country in yards allowed per game. Opponents took advantage of their lackluster rushing game, as the average rush play percentage against this defense per game was 54.3%.
They could've been in trouble if it weren’t for the Mustangs' top-10 scoring offense. SMU was able to average 37.8 points per game and 482.3 yards per game. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai threw for over 3300 yards and 31 touchdowns on the season while averaging 8.2 yards per pass. This air-raid offense could give some trouble to a BYU defense that allowed 7.8 yards per pass.
The game opened with BYU as -1.5 point favorites, but with the news of Jaren Hall being unable to play, they are now +3.5 point underdogs. With that being said, my play for this game is SMU -3.5, and I’d be willing to take -4 if that was the best number available.
Replacing the production of Jaren Hall is challenging, especially with a third-string quarterback. Hall threw for 31 touchdown passes on the season, and despite SMU’s defense being far below average at stopping the run, I find it hard to believe they can replace Hall’s scoring production strictly on the ground.
BYU’s defense, especially without two linebackers, won’t be able to limit the Mustangs' scoring offense. If Tanner Mordecai gets rolling, it’s hard to keep pace with the scoring barrage he has the ability to produce. The Cougars were 102nd in the country in opponent rushing yards per game, so SMU could also find success on the ground if needed.
Due to the Mustangs' defensive shortcomings, it may be a high-scoring game, but BYU does not contain the offensive firepower to stay in the game with SMU.
SMU Mustangs (-3.5)