Week 12 Preview – BYU vs. New Mexico

BYU is one win away from securing bowl eligibility, and with a home game against New Mexico slated for this Saturday, a bowl game is all but a given at this point.  New Mexico is vying for the title of “worst FBS team in the country” this season.  Perhaps they had dreams of beating BYU in this, their last conference match-up, but BYU has turned things around, and this looks to be the third straight blowout by the Cougars over a bottom-tier MWC team.

What we know about New Mexico

New Mexico is (1-9) on the year, with the lone win coming against lowly Wyoming.  Their losses include Oregon and Texas Tech, but they also lost to New Mexico State…heard enough?  They aren’t likely to win another game this season, as their remaining games are against streaking BYU (is that against the honor code?) and the high-powered TCU.  New Mexico ranks 114th in points-for (16.6 per game) and 119th in points against (42.6 per game).  The Lobos haven’t beaten the Cougars during the Bronco Mendenhall era, and it doesn’t look like this is the team that is going to break that trend.

What we know about BYU

BYU lost four of their first five games, and now have reversed the trend, having won four out of their last five, with the loss coming against TCU.  In the last two weeks, BYU outscored CSU and UNLV 104-17, and they are a completely different team from the one that was beat handily by Utah State mid-season.  This group is on a mission, and right now that mission involves beating the tar out of the Lobos, and riding that wave into Rice Eccles Stadium for the last MWC Holy War against Utah.   The Cougars have improved their standings to 49th in points-against (23.3), and to 88th in points-for (23.2).  After this game, that ratio should become positive, as will their record, at 6-5.

Keys to the game

Jake Heaps and the Receivers. Heaps had a new best game of his career last week, throwing for 242 yards and 4 touchdowns, with no INT’s.  Ashworth is his new go-to guy, as his four receptions were each touchdowns and accounted for 113 passing yards.  Look for Heaps to have another stellar performance this week against a sub-par Lobos defense.

Special Teams. Cody Hoffman and JD Falslev have been having great kickoff returns this season.  Punt returns and Cougar kick-offs are likely to be the main special teams units on the field during the game, as a consequence of having a great offense and a dominating defense.  Look for the Cougars to have short fields and to make the most of it.

The Rush Attack. JJ DiLuigi, Bryan Kariya, and Josh Quezada have been a great trio of running backs this season, and Ryan Folsom had two runs against CSU that netted him 74 yards!  The Cougar running backs are likely to rush for more than 200 yards again this week.

Bronco D. The first-team defense has been stifling since Bronco took over as defensive coordinator.  They are making good teams be one dimensional, and making poor teams non-dimensional.  Even last week, when Colorado State began to drive and look dangerous, the Cougar defense would make plays that would force turnovers, end drives, or score points.  This unit should dominate New Mexico, and even with second and third string units out late in the game, I think there is a good chance of a shutout for this game.

Prediction

Cougars win big.  In my season preview, I chose BYU over CSU 35-3, and it seems that the Cougars are going to outperform that, and I’m changing my call to BYU 52, New Mexico 3.

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