Previewing the New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. SMU
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This is the preview for the New Mexico Bowl.
Date: Saturday, Dec. 17, 4:30 p.m. ET
Betting splits: 57% of bets, 86% of handle on SMU -3.5
SMU and BYU will be meeting on the gridiron for only the fourth time. The two teams met in one of the greatest bowl games in history at the 1980 Holiday Bowl, dubbed the “Miracle Bowl” by BYU fans as the Cougars, trailing 45-25, scored 21 points in the final 2:33 of the game capped off by a Jim McMahon Hail Mary TD pass as time expired that gave BYU a miraculous 46-45 victory.
Speaking of miracles, that is what it might take for BYU junior starting quarterback Jaren Hall to play in this game; Hall injured his right ankle in the November 26th regular-season finale at Stanford. Jacob Conover, Hall’s backup, went into the transfer portal and committed to Arizona State. The Cougars are down to the third-, fourth, and fifth-string options on the quarterback depth chart with Cade Fennegan, Nick Billoups and Soi-Jay Maiava-Peters, all redshirt freshmen who have not seen game action. Fennegan, a Boise State transfer, is the likely starter if Hall cannot go.
BYU has also taken some hits on defense with second-leading tackler linebacker Keenan Pili now in the transfer portal. The Cougars are already thin at linebacker with Payton Wilgar and Max Tooley missing the last five games. That is not great news for a BYU team that ranks No. 116 in Passing Efficiency Defense, No. 120 in third downs, 100th in Scoring Defense (30 PPG), 98th in Rushing Defense (174 YPG), 93rd in Total Defense (409.7 YPG) and 94th in Red Zone Defense.
SMU’s offense is certainly one of the more potent ones in the country – sixth in Passing Offense (324.9 YPG), 12th in Total Offense (479.8 YPG), 13th in Scoring Offense (38.4 PPG) – but the group will be without leading receiver Rashee Rice. Rice led the nation in receiving yards per game (112.9) and was second nationally in total receiving yards (1,355).
The Mustangs’ defensive numbers are less potent, ranking 123rd in Scoring Defense (34.7 PPG), 121st in Rushing Defense (203.2 YPG), and 118th in Total Defense (445.8 YPG).
BYU opened as a 1.5-point favorite and is now a 5.5-point underdog with the likelihood of Hall not playing. The total has also plummeted from 73.5 to 64. Although both teams are missing key offensive cogs, a near 10-point drop is substantial without any weather concerns.
Matchup page for New Mexico Bowl
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