COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Vs. SMU: New Mexico Bowl Preview Plus Score Prediction

Dec 17, 2022, 12:01 AM | Updated: 12:30 am

BYU/SMU, Hinckley Ropati, New Mexico Bowl...

BYU running back Hinckley Ropati could be a key piece for the Cougars as they get set to take on SMU in the 2022 New Mexico Bowl. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – BYU/SMU is one of the early games in the 2022 Bowl Season. The setting for this matchup is the 17th annual New Mexico Bowl.

It’s the second meeting between BYU and SMU in a bowl game. Fourth meeting all-time, with BYU holding a 3-0 edge against the Mustangs.

If SMU wants their first victory against BYU, tonight is a great chance as the Cougars come into the game without quarterback Jaren Hall and are likely to miss star wide receiver Puka Nacua.

Today’s matchup brings BYU’s Independent era to a close. After today, BYU’s next football game will be as a member of the Big 12 Conference.

BYU vs SMU

17th annual New Mexico Bowl

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m.

TV: ABC

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

Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 game preview for today’s bowl game matchup between BYU and SMU.

Three Game Day Thoughts

1. New faces in key spots

Unless the recreation of the “Pineapple Bowl” in the old TV series “Coach” takes place, BYU quarterback Jaren Hall is going to be out for today’s game. Since he suffered the ankle injury against Stanford, it’s been a tall order for him to be ready for this game. But, if he was healthy, he would play.

But as we’ve seen this week in Albuquerque, with him in a boot and rolling around on a scooter, playing in this bowl game was not going to happen.

So now it creates an opportunity for a low-profile quarterback to step into the BYU football spotlight. Cade Fennegan is listed as the number two quarterback on the depth chart this week after Hall, but Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters has patiently waited for an opportunity since 2020. So does BYU reward Sol-Jay with a chance to showcase his playmaking abilities?

Either way, we probably see a combination of all three quarterbacks throughout the game unless one tap into the magic James Lark had 200 miles south in Las Cruces a decade ago.

While BYU pursues quarterbacks out of the transfer portal, one of these guys in the building has a chance to make a case as to why they should be QB1 in BYU’s Big 12 future.

Another area to watch with some new faces potentially emerging is at linebacker. All three of the week one starters are out in Keenan Pili (transfer portal), Payton Wilgar (injury), and Max Tooley (shoulder).

Ben Bywater is expected to play. But outside of him, it will be players who haven’t seen much action getting linebackers reps. Watch for Fisher Jackson, typically a defensive end with some early season success, to get time at BYU’s flash linebacker spot.

2. Eight wins sound a lot better than seven

The narrative around bowl games going into a matchup is always, “well, it doesn’t matter.” But if you lose? Oh, it matters. BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said as much earlier in the week.

Did anyone around the BYU program or fan base feel good suffering losses to UAB or Hawaii in recent years? No. Questioning the importance of a bowl like the New Mexico Bowl is fine. But after years go by, people only think about whether you won the game or lost. A record of 8-5 would look a lot better than another subpar 7-6 season.

3. BYU performs well with low expectations

With so many key players out for this game. Plus, the underperforming nature of this season that began with high hopes, there are low expectations for BYU entering this game.

When BYU gets in a spot where expectations are low, they typically overperform. Case in point, the win at Boise State in November.

This BYU team has shown a lot of fight down the stretch to end the season on a high note. I wouldn’t be surprised if they exceed the expectations prognostications have for them entering this bowl game.

Two BYU vs SMU Questions

1. Which BYU quarterback starts?

Again, I think all three quarterbacks see action. But who gets that first snap will be interesting to watch.

 

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2. Which team pulls out some “specials?”

In the grand scheme of the college football landscape, today’s New Mexico Bowl has no impact. Both squads want the win, yes. But at the end of the day, let’s see an entertaining ball game.

 

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SMU coach Rhett Lashlee showed his team highlights of the 1980 Holiday Bowl. Showing that a random bowl game can go down history. Do we see an epic finish in this one? What could make it epic is some trick plays or what BYU calls “specials.” Unload that playbook.

One Score Prediction for BYU vs SMU

What I’m about to say might end up as a freezing-cold take, but I’m going to call for BYU to pull off an upset. It wouldn’t surprise me if SMU ran away with this game, but BYU’s running backs should have a lot of success against SMU’s rush defense, which is in the bottom ten nationally. BYU maybe pulls a trick play or two and comes up with a takeaway to pull off an upset to close out Independence.

BYU 37, SMU 35

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com 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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BYU Vs. SMU: New Mexico Bowl Preview Plus Score Prediction