NCF Nation: New Mexico 2009 bowls

Three keys: New Mexico Bowl

December, 18, 2009
Fresno State (8-4)

1. Run the ball: Ryan Mathews is the best running back in the country and has been the workhorse for the Bulldogs all season. This might be his final game as he weighs his decision to leave school early for the NFL. The Cowboys' rushing defense is one of the worst in the country, allowing 170.50 yards per game.

2. Contain Carta-Samuels: Wyoming freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels is the most dangerous offensive player for the Cowboys. He has the ability to make plays with his feet, keep plays alive and create something out of nothing. Fresno State needs to keep him in the pocket to limit his effectiveness.

3. Make it a shootout: Fresno State can score and if it can score consistently, it can run away with this game. Wyoming doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Bulldogs. So, if Fresno State puts Wyoming in a hole early, it should come away with a win.

Wyoming (6-6)

1. Limit the big plays: Wyoming knows Mathews is going to get his yards, but limiting the big plays will help keep him out of the end zone and keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard. Wyoming needs to be realistic, but have a bend but don’t break attitude.

2. Limit turnover: One of the assets that have made Wyoming so successful this season has been limiting the turnovers. But the Cowboys also have to force turnovers. That shouldn't be too hard against a Fresno State team that already has lost 23 turnovers this season.

3. Help Austyn: The best games for Wyoming this season have been those where the rest of the team has picked up the play around quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. Samuels can create, but having a few players complement him will limit Fresno State's ability to spy him and lock him in the pocket.
Wyoming coach Dave Christensen vowed to turn the Cowboys around, but few thought it would come so quickly. The Cowboys are playing in their first bowl game since 2004 and were one of the rare success stories among the nonautomatic qualifying schools with new head coaches. But winning the bowl against a Fresno State team that has won at least eight games for the seventh time this decade will be a difficult task.

WHO TO WATCH: Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

Mathews, a junior, has been the Bulldogs' greatest offensive weapon this season and this might be his last game in a Fresno State uniform if he leaves for the NFL. Mathews led the nation in rushing with 151.27 yards per game. He rushed for more than 100 yards in 10 games this season. The only two games he didn’t were the ones he missed due to a concussion.

WHAT TO WATCH: The play of Wyoming QB Austyn Carta-Samuels

Carta-Samuels is one of the best young talents this year and a treat to watch because of his playmaking ability. The Mountain West’s Freshman of the Year doesn’t have a lot of help around him, but has the ability to make plays with both his arm and feet and can create plays out of nothing. He’s young, but he’s the reason the Cowboys are in a bowl game.

WHY TO WATCH: Fresno State could be Wyoming’s future

Fresno State has been a model of consistency most of this decade and is the type of team Wyoming would like to emulate under new head coach Dave Christensen. This bowl game has been a long time coming for Cowboys fans. In Christensen’s first season, he’s turned the program around and with talented recruits coming in, this might be a sign of the success the Cowboys could have on a consistent basis.

PREDICTION: Fresno State has been here before -- literally. The Bulldogs lost this bowl a year ago. But with Mathews going against Wyoming’s weak rushing defense, it’s going to be tough for the Cowboys to keep up. Wyoming’s best bet is to limit the big plays, but Mathews has played well even against some of the best defenses. The Bulldogs win this one 30-14.