On Saturday, December 16th college football finally kicks off the greatest exhibition season in all of sports. Seven different bowl games usher in the 2023 Bowl Season (and if anyone says there are too many bowl games, kindly remove that person from your life). Whether it be the New Orleans Bowl, the Myrtle Beach Bowl, or the Independence Bowl nightcap, Last Word has everyone covered. What’s unique to the New Mexico Bowl on a Saturday filled with games is the contrast in vibes between the two teams. Both teams could not be coming into this game in more different situations than their opponent. So do the good vibes continue for one of the teams?
Game/Teams: Isleta New Mexico Bowl; New Mexico State vs. Fresno State
Date/Time; Saturday, November 16th; 5;45pm Eastern
Good Vibes Reside With The Aggies
New Mexico State football is doing unprecedented things under Jerry Kill. The last time the Aggies won at least eight games in a season was 1965! New Mexico States’ 10 wins are tied for the most regular season in program history. One of those wins was an absolute smackdown of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare. They closed out the regular season on an eight-game winning streak before losing against undefeated Liberty in the Conference USA Championship. Kill’s team has been led by quarterback Diego Pavia.
Pavia is the team leader not only in passing but rushing yards. He has accumulated 3,766 yards of total offense and is responsible for 32 total touchdowns. The Aggies quarterback was rewarded for his season by being voted Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year. While he remains the focal point of the offense, New Mexico State does strive to be balanced offensively. One of the biggest factors if New Mexico State is going to win the New Mexico Bowl is to protect the football. The Aggies have just 14 turnovers in 14 games. However, eight of those 14 giveaways came in their four losses. So New Mexico State cannot afford to give the Bulldogs extra possessions.
Struggling Vibes Are Claiming The Bulldogs
Fresno State’s start to the season had such promise. Jeff Tedford’s team beat Purdue early in the season and started 5-0 and climbed to 8-1. The talk was, “This is a team that could win the Mountain West with a chance of making a New Year’s Six bowl.” However, they ended the season on a three-game losing streak. These losses were not closely contested either. The Bulldog defeats came by an average of 15.7 points and two of them came against 4-8 opponents. Fresno State did not clear 400 total yards of offense in four of their final five games. That said, this is still a Fresno State team that finished the season averaging 29.9 points per game. However, the Bulldogs have a few things going against them other than the ending of this season.
Tedford temporarily left the team because of health issues two weeks ago. Tim Skipper, the Bulldogs’ linebackers coach, will serve as the head coach for the New Mexico Bowl. In addition to being without their head coach, their quarterback Mikey Keene has been dealing with multiple injuries. Keene finished the season with 2,596 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. However, in his last three games, he has only gone 42-for-72 passing for 358 yards, only one touchdown and two interceptions. Keene really could use some help from his defense as well. While Fresno State has generated 22 turnovers on defense in 12 games, they have also allowed at least 24 points in their last seven games, and nine of their 12 games this season. If the defense continues to struggle, it will be up to the offense to do the heavy lifting if the Bulldogs hope to win the New Mexico Bowl.
New Mexico Bowl Prediction
The Aggies will likely be playing in front of a sudo-home crowd as they only have to travel 225 miles north up to Albuquerque for only their sixth bowl game in program history. New Mexico State has never lost a bowl game, 4-0-1 since 1935. However, the Aggies will have to get over the Bulldog historical blockade against the Aggies. Fresno State is 18-1 against New Mexico State all-time.
That said, Fresno State’s defense has been allowing anyone with a pulse to move the ball against them since October. If Pavia wasn’t playing, there would be some hesitation to pick New Mexico State. However, with the Aggies’ on-field leader back and close to 100%, New Mexico State caps off the season with win number 11 (which would be only the second time in program history the Aggies won 11 games in a season).
New Mexico 41, Fresno State 24