Fresno State is making its second consecutive appearance in the New Mexico Bowl after losing 40-35 to Colorado State in last year's game. Colorado State was a surprise in the Mountain West a year ago and the same can be said of Wyoming this year.
The Congrove Computer Rankings forecasted the Cowboys to finish 8th in the 9-team MWC with a record of 3-9 overall, 2-6 in the conference. Instead, Wyoming managed a 6-6 campaign in Dave Christensen's first season as head coach, but the Cowboys failed to defeat a single FBS team with a winning record.
The offensively challenged Cowboys were shut out in three games this season - Colorado, Air Force and BYU - and ranked 113th nationally in scoring with 16.3 points per game.
Fresno State certainly didn't have that problem. The Bulldogs rank 14th nationally in scoring offense (34.3 points per game) and 7th in rushing offense (231.58 per game).
The achilles heal of the Bulldogs was a leaky defense that surrendered over 50 points on three occasions and ranks 97th in yards allowed. Wyoming wasn't much better as it ranked 83rd in yards allowed.
Wyoming's best stat may be its turnover margin of plus-7, especially compared to their bowl opponent which ranks 105th at minus-9. Playing giveaway has been a recurring theme for Fresno State. The Bulldogs were minus-11 in turnover ratio a year ago and haven't finished a season on the plus side of that equation since 2004.
Fresno State finished 8-4 overall, 6-2 in the WAC, exactly as the computer forecasted before a single snap was taken. The Bulldogs only defeated one FBS team with a winning record, Idaho. Its best games were a 34-31 double-overtime loss at Wisconsin in week two, and a 53-52 win at Illinois in the season finale. The battle-tested Bulldogs also lost by just 8 points, 28-20, at Cincinnati.
Fresno State wasn't so tough in games against its own conference's heavyweights as the Bulldogs were soundly beaten by the WAC frontrunners, Boise State and Nevada. The Broncos routed Pat Hill's bunch 51-34 in Fresno, and the Wolfpack won 52-14 at Reno.
The Bulldogs were not only battle-tested, they were travel-weary as they logged over 23,000 miles. The WAC is a far-flung conference with member schools spread from Idaho to Louisiana to Hawaii. Additionally, Fresno State's first three road trips this season were to Wisconsin, Hawaii and Cincinnati for a cumulative 15,000-plus miles.
Fresno State is 10-8 alltime in bowl games. Wyoming is 5-6 and is making only its second bowl appearance since 1993.
This year's game is just the 4th edition of the the New Mexico Bowl which is played on the campus of the University of New Mexico. This year, it signals the beginning of a 34-game bowl season. ESPN will air the contest beginning at 4:30 eastern on December 20.