Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/SMU Game

Dec 16, 2022, 3:20 PM
BYU/SMU, Kalani Sitake...
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake leads the Cougars into the New Mexico Bowl against SMU. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Bowl features two teams, BYU and SMU, aiming to win their eighth game.

It’s the first meeting between the two schools since 1997 when they were both in the WAC. In addition, this is the second time BYU and SMU have squared off in a bowl game. The first was a historic game in the 1980 Holiday Bowl where BYU came back from 20 down with less than three minutes remaining to beat the Pony Express Mustangs, 46-45.

The New Mexico Bowl goes to primetime this year in its 17th installment. This game is typically in the early afternoon on the opening Saturday of the Bowl Season, but this year it switched to an evening slot due to the NFL moving up a Las Vegas Raiders game. Causing the Las Vegas Bowl to go in the New Mexico Bowl’s early slot and BYU/SMU sliding in under the lights.

Here are three storylines to watch as 7-5 BYU takes on 7-5 SMU.

#1 Quarterback situation for BYU

Unless a miracle happens, BYU QB Jaren Hall will be out for New Mexico Bowl. So who does BYU turn to at QB without Hall? The three options are Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan, walk-on Nick Billoups, and Sol-Jay Maiava Peters.

Fennegan enrolled at BYU last season and is listed as the No. 2 quarterback behind Hall on this week’s depth chart.

The former Boise State signal caller stood out a season ago on the scout team offense. But he hasn’t played in a game in two seasons. Same with Sol-Jay Maiava Peters, a former three-star recruit, Maiava is a dual-threat QB that has only played in mop-up duty late in blowout wins over Navy and North Alabama in the COVID year.

Walk-on Nick Billoups hasn’t played any snaps at the quarterback position during his collegiate career. He transferred in from Utah last season.

All three of these quarterbacks could play. However, if one has a bad drive, it could be the next man up in a hurry.

#2 Care Factor

Which team wants to be here? Both teams seem excited at the opportunity to be in Albuquerque for the New Mexico Bowl. Did they want more? Absolutely. But the teams appear to be embracing what’s in front of them.

SMU coach Rhett Lashlee, who is coaching in his first bowl as a head coach, has noted that this is a reward for his players. BYU’s Kalani Sitake has said this week that the motivation for this game is “to win.”

It’s’ going to come down to who’s most excited to play, and typically in the Bowl Season, the team that brings the most excitement comes out on top.

#3 Avoid costly turnovers

When Jaren Hall is in the game for BYU, the Cougars are good at protecting the football. Now that he’s gone? The jury is out. SMU is 82nd nationally in turnover margin.

Avoiding the devastating turnover that swings momentum will be key in this game. BYU likely turns to the ground game with Chris Brooks, Hinckley Ropati, and Miles Davis to lead the way with the issues at quarterback.

SMU knows its identity, with QB Tanner Mordecai passing the rock. Mordecai has only thrown nine interceptions this season. Ball security will be at a premium.


2022 New Mexico Bowl

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. (MT)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended pregame begins at Noon)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Mitch will be in Albuquerque for the 2022 New Mexico Bowl between BYU and SMU. Follow his coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/SMU Game