Arizona (6-6) vs New Mexico (7-5)
When: Saturday, December 19th 2015
Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
Time: 2:00 ET | TV: ESPN
The Arizona Wildcats, who battled injuries all season, will have two of their best players back on Saturday when they take on the New Mexico Lobos in the New Mexico Bowl. Arizona almost didn’t even qualify for a Bowl as they stumbled down they stretch, but pulled off a big win over then 10th-ranked Utah 37-30 before losing their season finale against rival Arizona State. Quarterback Anu Solomon showed a lot of promise while starting all 14 games as a freshman last season but never was the same after taking a hard hit in the fourth game this season against UCLA. He missed the following contest versus Stanford and threw seven touchdown passes and four interceptions in his next six games before sitting out the game against Arizona State with another concussion. He’s expected to start against New Mexico on Saturday. Running back Nick Wilson has been injured all season and sat out three of the last six games this season. In the three games he did play down the stretch, he managed only 42 yards rushing. He has been ruled out of the New Mexico Bowl which is a big blow to this offense. Senior Jared Baker has seen the bulk of the carries in Wilson’s absence, gaining 691 yards on the season with a 5.8 per rush average. The defense is dreadful, but should get a boost Saturday with the return of last season’s Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Scooby Wright III, who missed 10 of the 12 regular-season contests with knee and foot injuries but has been practicing in full.
The Lobos came within a game of playing for the Mountain West Conference Championship, but fell short and will get rewarded by playing a home Bowl game. This is a run-heavy offense that ranked 8th in the nation with 249.2 rushing yards per game and 123rd in passing. Running back Jhurell Pressley figures to get a heavy workload against an Arizona defense that ranked in the bottom half of the Pac-12 against the run this season. Pressley rushed for a career-high 170 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 47-35 victory over Air Force in the regular-season finale on November 28th, representing approximately 20 percent of his season total. Pressley posted two other 100-yard rushing efforts this year. 5’10” QB Lamar Jordan only threw the ball 108 times this season, but ran for 672 yards and six touchdowns. He’s thrown less than 10 passes in each of his last four games. His favorite target in Dameon Gamblin, though the receiver has gone mostly unused over the second half of the season – making nine of his team-high 33 catches in the last six games. The Arizona offense should have success against the Lobos as New Mexico is ranked 98th in total defense – 87th against the pass – 97th against the run. New Mexico was 5-2 at University Stadium this season.
This is a pretty big number for a team that finished 6-6 and doesn’t have their top running back. New Mexico is playing at home and should be able to control the ball with their running. Whether they can score enough to keep it close is another question. They did put up 47 in their last game against an Air Force team that ranks 23rd in total defense in FBS. I’ll take the points.
Pick: New Mexico +9