PUBG New Mexico Bowl: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Fresno State Bulldogs will finish their season against the UTEP Miners. Here’s how to watch the New Mexico Bowl and what to watch for.
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Can the ‘Dogs end the year on a high note?
PUBG NEW MEXICO BOWL: Fresno State Bulldogs (9-3, 6-2 Mountain West) vs. UTEP Miners (7-5, 4-4 Conference USA)
WHEN: Saturday, December 18 — 11:15 AM PT/12:15 PM MT
WHERE: University Stadium; Albuquerque, NM
WEATHER: Sunny, high of 47 degrees
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes ESPN, by following this link.
You can stream the Fresno State radio broadcast on Fresno State All-Access.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found in and around Fresno on Fox Sports 1340 AM, as well as on the affiliates of the Bulldog Radio Network around the San Joaquin Valley. The UTEP broadcast can be found on El Paso’s ESPN Radio affiliate, 600 AM (KROD).
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the all-time series 8-3-1. In the last meeting on October 9, 2004, the Miners defeated the Bulldogs, 24-21, in Fresno.
WEBSITES: GoBulldogs.com, the official Fresno State athletics website | UTEPMiners.com, the official UTEP athletics website
GAME NOTES (PDF): Fresno State | UTEP
ODDS (as of 12/15, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -11.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 6.3
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 12.4
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: Fresno State 72.9% win probability
We have some business to take care of this week. #GoDogs | #PrideOfTheValley pic.twitter.com/c9RD6Xirky
— Fresno State Football 🧸 (@FresnoStateFB) December 14, 2021
UTEP football head coach Dana Dimel on the significance of the New Mexico Bowl. @UTEPFB
“It’s a celebration of the season and an opportunity for us to do something special as a football team that hasn’t been done here in a long time.” @600espnelpaso pic.twitter.com/u7wBqglzHZ
— Adrian Broaddus (@AdrianBroaddus) December 5, 2021
The Fresno State Bulldogs will close out the 2021 college football season on the road against the UTEP Miners in this year’s New Mexico Bowl.
Interestingly, history hasn’t been kind to either side in this bowl game as the Bulldogs and Miners have a combined 0-4 record in past New Mexico Bowls. Something will have to give, though, so here’s how Fresno State can notch its tenth and final win of the season against the Miners.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Stall UTEP’s deep passing game.
UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison has taken big strides in his second full year as the unquestioned starter. While his 56% completion rate suggests he isn’t the most efficient signal-caller, the fact that he has averaged 8.9 yards per attempt and managed a 30-plus-yard chunk play on 9.3% of his 332 throws suggests he is plenty capable of making hay if Fresno State can’t get pressure on him.
That might be easier said than done, however, against a Miners offensive line that missed a total of one combined start this season and saw all five starters earn all-Conference USA honorable mentions. That starting unit has done a phenomenal job of keeping Hardison on his feet all season, allowing a 5.1% sack rate that ranks 36th nationally, so while the Bulldogs secondary has proven itself plenty capable of solving its own problems (52.1% completion rate, seven yards per attempt allowed in Mountain West play), it would make life a lot easier if the defensive front could win what looks like a strength vs. strength matchup more often than not.
Love this ball from Gavin Hardison – and this catch from @UTEPFB WR Jacob Cowing, who is criminally underratedpic.twitter.com/WgbCsZw2AY
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 3, 2021
2. Don’t get gun shy on first downs.
One major reason for Fresno State’s success this year was their willingness and capability to let Jake Haener attack defenses on first down. He was one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in that regard, completing 73.4% of those throws for 10.2 yards per attempt, which goes a long way toward explaining why the Bulldogs rank 25th in first downs earned percentage on first and second down (72.32%).
Now that we know Haener will play after all (even if we don’t know just how much), it’s worth noting the Miners have been merely decent about defending the pass on first downs. UTEP has allowed a 60% completion rate and 7.96 YPA in those situations, so it could be a winning game plan to stick with what has worked all year no matter who is QB1.
3. Be prepared to defend for all four downs.
UTEP does a few things well on offense but one thing that has languished all season is their performance on third downs. They’ve converted 33.14% of the time, which ranks 11th out of 14 teams in Conference USA, but that has been offset somewhat by unexpected successes on fourth down: The Miners have only gone for it 20 times, but they’re one of three FBS teams with a 80% conversion rate.
Hardison, in particular, has done a lot of that heavy lifting by completing 10-of-12 passes for eight first downs and two touchdowns. Expect that the underdog Miners will seize upon every chance to get aggressive in order to keep the powerful Bulldogs offense off the field.
UTEP has been one of the most inspiring stories of this college football season, but one thing which can’t be ignored is that their main strength was outclassed by superior competition down the stretch: While the Miners defense allowed 5.13 yards per play on the year, that figure jumps to 5.83 YPPA in four November games against UTSA, North Texas, Rice, and UAB.
Fresno State should be able to hold steady against UTEP’s strong front seven and spread the ball around like usual. The Bulldogs should also maintain a healthy talent advantage on both sides of the ball and keep the Miners’ explosiveness from making too many big waves.
Fresno State 34, UTEP 19