Temple Owls (8-4, 5-3 in MAC)
Most Impressive Victory: 38-7 at Maryland (9/24)
Worst Loss: 13-10 at Bowling Green (10/22)
Temple comes into this game on a three game win streak that all came against teams that finished the season with losing records. An interesting note is that first year Head Coach Steve Adazzio's squad hasn't beaten a team all year that finished with a winning record (Ball State had the best record at 6-6). Temple is a team that is most identifed by their star RB Bernard Pierce. Pierce finished the regular season with 1831 yards and 25 TDs. Look for Temple to dedicate themselves to the ground game as they ran the ball over 75% of the time this year (585 rush attempts vs 186 pass attempts) and finished the season as the seventh leading rushing offense in the Nation. In two of the four games Temple lost they were held under 150 yards rushing. If Wyoming can stop the run, they have a great shot at winning this game.
Defensively, Temple had a good season as they finished ranked first in the MAC in rushing yardage allowed (122.58 ypg), passing yardage allowed (114.5 ypg), total defense (315.5 ypg) and points allowed (just 13.8 ppg). Despite their stellar statistics, Temple had it's worst defensive month in November as they gave up 420 ypg and 21.5 ppg despite going 3-1.
Wyoming Cowboys (8-4, 5-2 in MWC)
Most Impressive Victories: 30-27 at San Diego State (10/29); 25-17 at Air Force (11/12)
Worst Loss: 63-19 at Utah State (10/8)
Wyoming took a big leap in their third year under Head Coach Dave Christensen. After going 3-9 last year, the Cowboys finished the season 8-4 with all of their losses coming against teams that are bowl bound (three of which finished the season in the Top 25). On offense, Wyoming will be balanced as they run the ball just about 53% of the time. In all of their losses they've been held to under 140 yards. The player that makes the Cowboys go is dual threat Freshman QB Brett Smith. Smith finished second on the team in rushing as he was just 33 yards behind RB Alvester Alexander and had 10 TDs (4 more than Alexander). Smith also finished the year with 2495 yards passing and 18 TD to 8 INT. Dave Christenen is from Missouri and coached there from 1997 to 2008 so the type of offense he runs will look familiar if you've seen Missouri play but key to make the offense work is Smith. Smith making plays with his arm and his feet will be pivitol to keep Temple's defense off balance.
Wyoming has an average defense. They finished 4th in the MWC in points allowed (27 ppg), 6th against the run (230 ypg), 5th against the pass (202 ypg) and 6th in total defense (432 ypg). In three out of four losses Wyoming has given up over 300 yards rushing (333 vs Nebraska, 303 vs USU, 390 vs TCU). It will obviously be a key for Wyoming to buckle down against the run and force Temple to do what they don't want to do, throw the ball.
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Bowls generally in the mid December area feature no Top 100 NFL Draft prospects, as generally these non-BCS teams lack that elite level talent. That isn't necessarily the case for the New Mexico Bowl. For Temple, one of the best rushers in the country, both statisically and pro-potential wise, Bernard Pierce should be the feature talent. He'll face a very mediocre Wyoming defense, and his combination of balance through contact, vision in traffic, quick burst into seams, and overall nimbleness as a runner could give NFL scouts and fans alike a chance to see a running back talent that, if he can stay healthy, has the makings of a featured NFL back and Top 60 NFL Draft selection.
Also on that Temple offense, guards Derek Dennis and Wayne Tribue, both are potential late rounders. On their defense, inside linebacker Stephen Johnson has gone from walk-on to a solid senior ILB prospect, while Adrian Robinson at defensive end flashes 3-4 OLB talent. Finally, for Wyoming, cornerback Tashaun Gipson has solid size, but if Temple schemes well, should stay away from the MWC's best cornerback.
Twitter Follows For New Mexico Bowl:
Ross: In Bernard Pierce (and the Temple defense) I trust.
Temple 24, Wyoming 20
Kevin: This feels like a favorable match-up for Temple. Temple's strength is running the football and Wyoming has struggled to stop the run in their losses. Bodog has Temple as a 7 point favorite in this one. The one thing I'm stuck on is the fact that Temple hasn't beaten anybody with a winning record this year. On the other hand, Wyoming has won two tough road games against two teams that are going bowling (San Diego State and Air Force). I like the match-up with Bernard Pierce against the Wyoming defense but I say to Steve Adazzio, let me see it on game day. Take the points and I'm picking Wyoming straight-up.
Wyoming 24 Temple 21