The 2022 New Mexico Bowl features the 7-5 SMU Mustangs against the 7-5 BYU Cougars. Here is the 2022 New Mexico Bowl Preview.
SMU Mustangs (7-5)
SMU won seven games to make their fourth-straight bowl game. They defeated three bowl-eligible teams this season: North Texas, Houston and Memphis. All five of their losses came to teams who qualified for bowl games.
The Mustangs score 38.4 points per game, ranking them 13th nationally. SMU rushes for 154.9 yards (tied for 65th) and pass for 324.9 yards per game (ranked sixth).
Tanner Mordecai has been a great quarterback for the Mustangs over the last two seasons. This season, he has passed for 3,306 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 64.3 percent completion. Six pass-catchers have over 200 receiving yards this season. The best receiver on the team is Rashee Rice, who has 96 receptions for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he will not play in this game due to injury.
SMU is unique in that five different running backs have at least 200 rushing yards. Tyler Levine leads the way with 551 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Velton Gardner and Camar Wheaton have been the best running backs behind him with 368 rushing yards and 285 receiving yards respectively.
The defense allows 34.7 points per game, ranking 123rd in the country. They give up 203.2 rushing yards (ranked 121st) and 242.6 passing yards per game (ranked 91st). Linebacker Jimmy Phillips has led the team with 76 tackles and also has five passes defended this season. Nelson Paul has a team-high five sacks. Safety Nick Roberts has three interceptions on the season.
BYU Cougars (7-5)
BYU also won seven games, which will allow them to play in their fifth-straight bowl game. The Cougars defeated four bowl-eligible teams this season in Baylor, Wyoming, Utah State and Boise State. They did not lose to any teams who didn’t qualify for a bowl game.
The Cougars score 31.9 points per game, which ties them for 39th nationally. They rush for 179.3 yards (ranked 52nd) and pass for 266.6 yards per game (ranked 32nd).
Quarterback Jaren Hall has had a great season for the Cougars. He has 3,171 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and six interceptions on 66 percent completion. He is questionable with an injury. Backup quarterback Jacob Conover is in the transfer portal, so inexperienced players could be playing big snaps. Six pass-catchers have over 200 yards for the Cougars. Puka Nacua, Keanu Hill and Kody Epps each have over 400 receiving yards. Nacua has 625 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Hill is out with an injury.
Five players have over 200 rushing yards for the Cougars. The leading rusher is Christopher Brooks with 729 yards and five touchdowns. Hall is the second-leading rusher, even as a quarterback, with 346 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Behind Brooks, Lopini Katoa has helped with 332 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Their defense gives up 30 points per game, ranking them 100th in the FBS. They concede 174 rushing yards (ranked 98th) and 235.7 passing yards per game (ranked 85th). Linebacker Ben Bywater leads the team with 87 tackles. The defense hasn’t been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as their leading sacker is Lorenzo Fauatea with 2.5. Defensive back Kaleb Hayes has had a decent season with seven passes defended.
For fans of scoring, this is one of the games to check out. BYU’s defense is a little better than SMU’s, which will be the difference in this game.
BYU Cougars 38 SMU Mustangs 33
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