New Mexico (8-4) vs. Texas San Antonio (6-6)
The first bowl of 2016 will feature Bob Davie’s surprising New Mexico team playing what amounts to another home game in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Texas San Antonio was a middling Sunbelt team that went 3-4 against bowl eligible competition. While their victories against Middle Tennessee State and Southern Miss stand out the Roadrunners were unable to attain an impressive out of conference victory, unlike New Mexico.
When New Mexico Has The Ball: The Lobos are among the best rushing teams in the nation and have had success against every team they have played this year running the football. UTSA is respectable, given their conference affiliation, at 52nd overall against the run but they have yet to be tested the way New Mexico will test them. It seems unlikely that UTSA will be able to stop New Mexico.
When Texas San Antonio Has The Ball: The Roadrunners have a pretty well balanced offense that is led by their running back tandem of Jalen Rhodes and Jarveon Williams. While New Mexico isn’t a world beater on defense they are good enough to contain the Roadrunners offense at times, - the average about 38% on opponents first downs (good for the Mountain West style of play.) UTSA also will need to do a better job of keeping the Lobos out of the backfield. The Roadrunners give up a lot of tackles for losses which they won’t be able to afford against a strong rushing team like New Mexico.
Analysis: The only advantage that UTSA has is in turnover margin where their +4 on the season gives them a 6 TO advantage over New Mexico. Both teams have lost exactly 14 turnovers, however, and UTSA will need to create more opportunities for their offense, and slow the momentum of New Mexico if they are to keep this game close. My guess is they need to be at around +2 in turnovers to keep the game close, something that seems unlikely.
Prediction: New Mexico 45-Texas San Antonio 24