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Game Preview: Arizona vs. New Mexico (The New Mexico Bowl)

The Bowl season kicks of early Saturday featuring a disappointing Arizona team against the upstart New Mexico Lobos. The Wildcats started the season with high hopes and were 5-2 through seven games before a tough loss to Washington State landed them in this minor Bowl. New Mexico’s Bob Davie should have gotten A LOT of consideration for NCAAF Coach of the Year. After taking a downtrodden program that won 10 games in his first three years, Davies first class of seniors shocked the world by winning seven games and becoming Bowl eligible for the first time in eight years. One of those wins was a straight up win over Boise State as a 30.5 point underdog. The line opened with Arizona as a -12 point favorite with the total 68. Lobo and the Under money has the number Wildcats -10 and the total 65 at this writing. The game will be played at University Stadium in Albuquerque and the weather should be perfect with the temperature at kickoff in the high 40’s.

Arizona is led by quarterback Anu Solomon, a Bishop Gorman product from Las Vegas who has started since his arrival in Arizona. Though just a sophomore, he’s not progressed the way many thought, possibly because of several nagging reoccurring injuries that have plagued him throughout his career. He’s still thrown 2300+ yards with an 18/4 TD/Int ratio but the Cats have fallen short in every big game with Solomon calling the shots which also has HC Rich Rodriguez on the hot seat. Nick Wilson would have been the feature back after a huge freshman season but injuries limited him to just 725 yards in nine games. Jerrard Randall (78-709) and Jared Baker (119-691) will also get carries. The Zona Achilles heel has been an atrocious defense that is No.114 overall (111th vs the pass) in the nation out of 125 FBS teams.

New Mexico runs the option and they run it as well if not better than Navy and Air Force. The Lobos are No.8 in the country in rushing the football at better than 246 yards per game which also eats a lot of clock and covers up New Mexico’s defensive deficiencies. Lamar Jordan runs the option and throws on occasion. The Lobos use Austin Apodaca when they need to throw. Three backs have better than 672 yards rushing led by Jhurell Pressley (135-846, 11 TDs) and Teriyon Gipson (132-766, 6 TDs). Dameon Gamblin (33-397) is the only Lobo wide out with more than 13 catches. The New Mexico defense is feisty and flies to the ball. They rank No.98 in defense but give up a full 40 yards less per game than Arizona, granted against Mountain West competition.

As is often the case in Bowl games, motivation is a key element and goes a long way in the final outcome of many Bowls. It’s been a tough year for Arizona which had high hopes starting the year and now finds themselves in Albuquerque the week before Christmas instead of playing on New Year’s Day. Coach Rich Rod was rumored to be on the move again though things have been quiet the past two weeks in Tucson. New Mexico is thrilled to be here, will playing on its home field and should have the majority of the crowd support. The Lobos are 4-0 when getting more than a touchdown this year with double-digit straight up wins over Utah State, Boise and Air Force. Arizona has the better athletes and this is a border war but it remains to be seen if the Wildcats will come to play.

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