Fresno State vs. New Mexico: Three Keys to a Bulldogs Win
The Bulldogs look to end the regular season on a high note against the Lobos. Here’s our preview of how Fresno State can beat New Mexico.
Don’t sleep on the Lobos
WEEK 15: Fresno State Bulldogs (3-2) vs. New Mexico Lobos (1-5)
WHEN: Saturday, December 12 — 7:30 PM PT/8:30 PM MT
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium; Las Vegas, NV
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FS1, by following this link.
You can also find the audio broadcast on TuneIn.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found around the Central Valley on 940 AM. The New Mexico broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Lobo Radio Network, including flagship 770 AM (KKOB) in Albuquerque.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the series 13-4. In the last meeting on October 28, 2018, the Bulldogs defeated the Lobos in Albuquerque, 38-7.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State lost on the road at Nevada, 37-26, while New Mexico won at “home” against Wyoming, 17-16.
ODDS (as of 12/10, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -11.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 13.4 (78% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 8.3
The Fresno State Bulldogs missed out on a chance to play their way into the Mountain West title game, but a possible bowl bid might still be on the line when they head back to the Silver State one more time to face the New Mexico Lobos.
The ‘Dogs and Lobos weren’t supposed to meet again until 2021 and they certainly didn’t plan on doing so in Las Vegas, providing one last wrinkle in Fresno State’s adventurous 2020 campaign. New Mexico turned a corner last weekend with an upset win against Wyoming, too, so while there may be a disparity in talent on paper, head coach Kalen DeBoer won’t take the Lobos lightly.
Here’s how Fresno State can finish the regular season with a winning record and beat UNM.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Put some heat on the new quarterback.
New Mexico has had its own share of adventures aside from a relocation to the desert, but nothing has been as much of a headache as the turnover under center. Walk-on true freshman Isaiah Chavez came on in relief of Connor Genal last Saturday, who was knocked out for the rest of the year with a wrist injury; Genal himself took over after Trae Hall suffered bruised ribs. Hall began the year as Tevaka Tuioti’s backup, but Tuioti hasn’t made it back from concussion protocols since early November.
Chavez, at this point, is essentially the last man standing at quarterback and he’ll make his first career start against Fresno State, which should be a wild mismatch at first glance. What he has in common with Tuioti, Hall and Genal, however, is a fair bit of mobility and a solid if unspectacular offensive line that has done a good job of keeping the quarterback upright. Despite the shuffle, New Mexico has allowed a six-percent sack rate that ranks right around the national average, so while David Perales, Kwami Jones and company could create their own breaks, it may not be a total given.
2. Pick the Lobos apart in the air.
New Mexico has some good contributors at the front of coordinator Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defense, but it stands to reason that if the Bulldogs are back to full strength on the offensive line from its recent COVID-related absences, they should do a better job of protecting Jake Haener than they did a week ago against Nevada.
If Haener has time to throw, he could have a field day against a UNM secondary that has gotten many of its most important pieces back — most notably cornerback Donte Martin and safety Nico Bolden — but has still had plenty of growing pains. Even with last week’s sterling performance against Wyoming, the Lobos have allowed a 66.5% completion rate, 9.3 yards per attempt, 15 touchdowns, and a 166.77 passer rating to its opponents. All of those are the worst numbers in the Mountain West so, long story short, Fresno State isn’t Wyoming when it comes to throwing the football.
3. Find a way to jumpstart the running game.
Running back Ronnie Rivers has continued to score touchdowns like they’re going out of style, but that prodigious production has overshadowed that, if the Fresno State offense has had one minor flaw this year, it’s been running the ball. Their sack-adjusted 4.57 yards per carry average as a team is down only slightly from 2019, but they also haven’t been nearly as explosive as last year, either, with just five runs of 20 or more yards in 177 rushing attempts.
They might be able to finish with a flourish against a Lobos defense that’s been better about defending the run… but not by that much, allowing an even five yards per carry. Even if Rivers isn’t able to go — his status is yet to be determined for Saturday — Jordan Mims would step into a favorable situation.
The Bulldogs didn’t quite reach the ceiling they hoped for this fall, but it shouldn’t be too tough for Fresno State to finish strong and come away with a win. Even if the running game scuffles one more time, Haener and the legion of pass-catching talents should be able to put up a lot of points and make the last best case for a bowl bid.
Fresno State 35, New Mexico 17