On Saturday (12/16/23), New Mexico State faces Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. In this article, find a full preview of the game and the latest betting odds. In addition, find our New Mexico State vs. Fresno State best bet which is New Mexico State -3.5.
New Mexico State Aggies vs. Fresno State Bulldogs Prediction
In his second season in charge, head coach Jerry Kill led New Mexico State to a tremendous season where they went 10-4 and fell just short in the C-USA championship against undefeated Liberty. The Aggies relied on a run-heavy approach spurred by dual threat quarterback Diego Pavia and a defense that allowed just 21.8 points per game, ranking 36th in the country.
Pavia accounted for over 3,700 total yards and 32 total touchdowns this season through the air and on the ground, and he’ll have advantages against a Fresno State defense ranked just 86th in tackling per PFF. Keep an eye on the injury report for Pavia as he was forced out of the C-USA Championship with a shoulder issue, but all indications are that he should be good to go and the line movement in this game reinforces that.
Fresno State, meanwhile, looked like the best team in the Mountain West when they started the year 5-0. However, they finished the year 0-3 with an average margin of defeat of 15.6 points per game. That included losses to New Mexico and San Diego State, who both finished with 4-8 records. The Bulldogs are limping into this bowl game, and they’re slated to be without head coach Jeff Tedford who is dealing with personal health issues. Track bowl game opt-outs due to the transfer portal and NFL Draft decisions.
The Bulldogs are a pass-heavy team, calling 41 such plays per game, which ranks 8th in the FBS. The Aggies have had some issues defending the pass this season, ranking 86th in success rate and 98th in PFF coverage grades. However, quarterback Mikey Keene has dealt with injuries including concussion-like symptoms during the end of the season. Hopefully, we’ll get a full effort from both quarterbacks in this game.
Handicapping bowl games is often driven by motivational factors, and I have little doubt that the Aggies will be more up for this game, especially since it’s taking place in their home state and at the house of their hated rival. Fresno State regressed at the end of the season, which was to be expected for a team that went 5-1 in one-score games. So long as Pavia is good to go, I’m comfortable laying the points with New Mexico State and backing Kill to lead his team to a second straight bowl victory.
New Mexico State vs. Fresno State Prediction: New Mexico State -3.5
New Mexico State vs. Fresno State Best Odds
We’ve seen significant movement in the odds for this game. New Mexico State opened as merely a favorite of a point with their Moneyline available as low as -115 at open. However, the market has backed the Aggies in this game, driving the spread up to -3.5 at the time of writing. The over/under can be found at 51.5 points, leading to an implied final score of around 27-24 in favor of New Mexico State.
New Mexico State vs. Fresno State Key Matchups
There are plenty of talented players on the field in this game between two of the better Group of Five teams this season. In this section, I’ll break down each team’s starting quarterback as they will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Diego Pavia vs. Fresno State’s Defense
Pavia was one of the best quarterbacks in the Group of Five this season, and the dual threat quarterback even threw for three touchdowns in the team’s shocking upset win over Auburn earlier this year. Pavia is expected to play through his shoulder injury, and he will lead an offense that ranks top 30 in EPA in passing and rushing. Pavia will also have to play this game without wide receiver Trent Hudson, who led the team with ten touchdowns.
Fresno State’s defense is middling across the board, which is especially concenring when you consider that they faced the 121st-ranked strength of schedule by FPI. Overall, the Bulldogs rank 63rd in EPA/play and 44th in success rate. Fresno State struggled with mobile quarterbacks this year, and they allowed San Diego State’s Jalen Mayden to rack up 14 carries for 96 yards and a score in the final week of the season.
New Mexico State visited Auburn today as 25.5-point underdogs and were as high as +1550 on the moneyline..
— BestOdds.com (@BestOddsBets) November 18, 2023
Mikey Keene vs. New Mexico State’s Pass Defense
Mikey Keene was in and out of the lineup over the final month of the season, but he had a solid season overall, finishing with just under 2,600 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Fresno State finished with the 44th-ranked passing offense by success rate, and Keene did a great job of spreading the ball around, as six different receivers finished with over 200 yards this season.
New Mexico State’s pass defense has had some issues at times, ranking 98th in PFF coverage grades, but it’s their run defense that’s the bigger concern – they rank outside the top 100 in EPA and success rate allowed on the ground. Fresno State isn’t in position to expose that, though, as their run game has faltered, ranking just 110th in success rate.
Mikey Keene to Erik Brooks for the first Bulldogs touchdown of the season.
— Sidelines – FresnoState (@SSN_FresnoState) September 2, 2023