New Mexico Bowl: Temple vs. Wyoming

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
12:30
PM ET
Temple and Wyoming are meeting for the second time in the schools' histories. The Cowboys topped the Owls, 38-23, on Sept. 1, 1990. Temple is bowl-eligible for the third straight season and is looking for its first bowl win since the Garden State Bowl in 1979, which marked the only bowl win in school history. Coming off a 3-9 campaign in 2010, Wyoming, meanwhile, is looking to end 2011 on a strong note after completing the third-biggest turnaround among FBS teams this season.

WHO TO WATCH: Bernard Pierce. Could this be it for Pierce? Arguably the most prolific running back in Temple history, Pierce rushed for 1,381 yards and 25 touchdowns (third-best in the nation) this season despite missing one game with a concussion. For his career, the junior has school records of 52 touchdowns and 312 points scored. His 3,470 career rushing yards are second. Pierce is coming off a career-best 189-yard performance in the Owls' regular-season finale against Kent State. He has submitted paperwork for the NFL advisory board.

WHAT TO WATCH: Wyoming's rush defense. The decorated Pierce could have a field day against the Cowboys, who rank 115th nationally in rush defense, allowing more than 230 yards on the ground per game. Wyoming does, however, have a knack for the ball, forcing 31 turnovers this season, good for fifth-best in the nation. It is also tied for fifth in the nation in turnover margin, at plus-15.

WHY TO WATCH: This five-year-old bowl is pitting eight-win teams against each other for the first time in its history. Wyoming is going for its first nine-win season since its 10-2 campaign in 1996. The Cowboys played in the New Mexico Bowl two years ago and upset Fresno State, 35-28, in a double-overtime thriller. The winningest senior class in Temple history (30), meanwhile, is looking to finish strong and clinch the fourth nine-win season in school history.

PREDICTION: Temple 38, Wyoming 21. Better late than never, right? Seeking its first bowl win in 32 years, Temple's flight to Albuquerque was delayed Wednesday, forcing the team to move back its practice time and then be late for a welcome reception and dinner. The Owls have the best player on the field in Pierce. They have the third-best scoring defense in the country. And they're riding a three-game winning streak and string of success unparalleled in school history.

Matt Fortuna | email

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