New Mexico Bowl: Who will win, BYU or SMU — and why

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BYU players run through drills at an indoor practice facility in Albuquerque earlier this week. The Cougars have been preparing for their New Mexico Bowl showdown with the SMU Mustangs, which will take place Saturday evening.

BYU Photo

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The New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque will feature two offenses that can light up the scoreboard but defenses that have struggled. Key players will be missing from both teams when they meet on Saturday. 

Here’s a list of our pre-bowl coverage stories:

Hall is maybe, and Lopini is out (Jay Drew)
BYU shakes up conditioning coaches (Jay Drew)
Both SMU, BYU will miss players (Jay Drew)
BYU’s best bowl moments (Brandon Judd)

Cougar Insider predictions

Predict the score of the New Mexico Bowl game between BYU and SMU and explain your reasoning.

Jay Drew: There’s been so much news swirling around the BYU football program the past two weeks since the Cougars beat Stanford that it is almost easy to forget there is a bowl game this Saturday. For that reason, and all the fallout from it, I have a hard time believing the Cougars will be ready to play in the New Mexico Bowl. Plus, it is extremely likely that BYU will be without starting QB Jaren Hall, who is not recovering quickly or all that well from the ankle injury he sustained against the Cardinal.

A bit of study has also convinced me that SMU has one of the best offenses the Cougars will face this season. Throw in the fact that BYU will be without a bunch of defensive starters, most notably transfer portal-bound Keenan Pili, and I just don’t see any way the Cougars can slow down the Mustangs’ offense. For those reasons, I see SMU winning fairly easily.

Prediction: SMU 41, BYU 24

Dick Harmon: SMU’s offense is a real problem for BYU’s defense in this game. On the other hand, so is BYU’s offense an issue for SMU’s defense, especially if Jaren Hall is cleared to play. Regardless if Hall plays, BYU’s game plan will likely be similar to the Stanford game — playing keepaway from SMU with a physical run game. 

No question by missing Keenan Pili and all the distractions going on with coaching changes, BYU has been uprooted. I could see this being a real issue in this game. On the other hand, tight end Isaac Rex said BYU’s defense has had some of its best practices of the year in prep for the bowl game and new DC Jay Hill has lit a fire under the defense. This is a tough one to predict but I see how BYU played against USU, Boise State and can see size on the lines could be an issue in BYU’s favor. But we’ve all seen BYU’s defense yield big yards vs. Liberty and East Carolina, and that’s the quandary. I’ll try and be pre-Christmas optimistic here.

Prediction: BYU 34, SMU 31

Cougar tales

After losing to South Dakota State and Utah Valley, BYU men’s basketball found itself in a bad place. But the rally to defeat No. 21 Creighton in Las Vegas injected energy into Mark Pope’s players, even if they blew an 11-point lead in the final three minutes. Jeff Call chronicles that game in this piece. Call further analyzes the win here. Next up for the Cougars is Saturday’s showdown vs. an improved Runnin’ Utes team Saturday in Provo.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

BYU’s ranking in 3pt% by season:

2020 = 1st
2021 = 47th
2022 = 110th
2023 = 327th

— CougarStats (@CougarStats) December 13, 2022

BYU has their highest per recruit ranking ever right now.

Jackson Bowers and Siale Esera are both 4* with 45+ between them.

Ethan Thomason is a MOUNTAIN and had 18 offers.

Phillips, Haunga, Davis, Pututau, Borg.. All had P5 offers.

Quit being so damn soft.

— Jeff Hansen (@rakoto10) December 12, 2022

We live in a age where sometimes the best shot of a huge play comes from a mobile phone rather than the TV cameras. This one is beautiful.

— Geoff Johnston (@geoffjBYU) December 11, 2022

Extra points

BYU gets second defensive commit in days (Deseret News)

Texas, OU leaving Big 12 early? (

Why Poppinga returned to BYU (Deseret News)


Comments from Deseret News readers:

College football feels like a train wreck these days. You play all season to reach a bowl game and then decide to enter a transfer portal so you are not there for it. Why? Why can’t the transfer portal be put off until January? Why is it set for guys to declare before the bowl games happen?

The fear of injuries impacting a shot at the NFL, I get it, we all have to plan for our futures, but players opting out of playing in the bowl games only makes the bowl games irrelevant. It is very hard to care about games people don’t want to play in.

— DH48

I wasn’t a Mendenhall fan. Lots of injuries, people in and out, blame game on fitness and strength. But for all that, it seems much more together than the Sitake administration who doesn’t know his left hand from his right foot about what’s going on. Isn’t there any HC that knows about nutrition, fitness, and strength and conditioning? I’ve been harping on it for 30 years with BYU how out of shape they are and unprepared for a P5 weekly schedule. Oh next year is going to be ugly. Really ugly.

— Dimitri

Up next

Dec. 17 | 3 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Gonzaga | @Spokane, Washington

Dec. 17 | 4 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Utah | @Provo

Dec. 17 | 5:30 p.m. | Football | New Mexico Bowl | vs. SMU | @Albuquerque, New Mexico

Dec. 19 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Portland | @Portland, Oregon

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