New Mexico Bowl Preview: Temple Owls vs. Wyoming Cowboys
I am previewing all 35 bowl games this year, and the previews start out with the very first bowl game of the season, the New Mexico Bowl, which features the Temple Owls and the Wyoming Cowboys.
This game will be played on Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. EST at University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Record: 8-4 (5-3 MAC)
Biggest win: at Maryland, 38-7, Sept. 24
Worst loss: vs Toledo, 13-36, Oct. 1
For the second year in a row, the Temple Owls finished the season with an 8-4 record. The Owls had a winning in-conference record, going 5-3.
That said, the Owls did not win against any bowl-eligible teams all season.
The Owls are the fourth-worst passing team in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision, ranking 117th overall in passing yards per game.
However, the Owls have one of the NCAA’s best defenses, ranking third in the nation in points against, allowing just 13.8 per game.
Record: 8-4 (5-2 MWC)
Biggest win: at San Diego State, 30-27, Oct. 29
Worst loss: at Utah State, 19-63, Oct. 8
Three of Wyoming’s losses came against Top 25 teams: home losses to Nebraska and TCU, and a road loss to Boise State. Their other loss, however, was a complete embarrassment, losing by 44 points to a Utah State team that they could have, and probably should have, beaten.
Wyoming’s best win of the season came in an upset road victory on Oct. 29, as the Cowboys surprisingly came away with a win over one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference, San Diego State.
Players to Watch
Temple RB Bernard Pierce, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: 4th Round
Bernard Pierce finished this regular season with 25 rushing touchdowns; only two players, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball and Kansas State’s Collin Klein, had more than Pierce.
At 218 pounds, Pierce will be a real load for the Wyoming defense to handle as they go up against one of the nation’s best power backs.
Pierce does his best work near the goal line scoring touchdowns, but he also ranks 13th in the nation in rushing yards, running for more than 125 yards per game played. This could be Pierce’s final game in a Temple uniform if he declares for the 2012 NFL Draft. Keep an eye on him to have a big performance.
Temple DE Adrian Robinson, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: 7th Round (OLB)
Adrian Robinson is the star of the Owls’ defensive force. Robinson, a team captain, is a first-team All-MAC selection.
Robinson makes plays happen up front, leading the team with six sacks. When the Owls are on defense, keep an eye on Robinson off the edge.
Wyoming DL Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns, Seniors
NFL Draft Grades: Undrafted
The two best players on the Wyoming Cowboys are their two senior defensive linemen, Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns.
Neither is a major NFL Draft prospect, but both are strong, tough linemen. Knapton leads the team with 6.5 sacks, while Biezuns has the most tackles for loss with 9.5.
The Cowboys are going to need Knapton and Biezuns to play at their best to have a chance at slowing down Bernard Pierce.
Comparing the Two Teams
Common opponent: Bowling Green
Temple: Road loss, 10-13, Oct. 22
Wyoming: Road win, 28-27, Sept. 17
Temple’s rushing offense: Seventh in nation, 256.5 yards per game
Wyoming’s rushing defense: 115th in nation, 230.1 yards per game
Temple’s scoring defense: Third in nation, 13.8 points per game
Wyoming’s scoring offense: 60th in nation, 27.0 points per game
By simply comparing schedules, Wyoming has the more impressive resume. The Cowboys beat Bowling Green, who defeated Temple, and defeated two bowl-bound teams, while the Owls beat zero.
However, looking beyond the schedules, Temple has the advantage. Bernard Pierce is one of the best running backs in the nation, going up against one of the nation’s worst rushing defenses.
On the other side, the Owls have a defense that rarely allows offenses to find the end zone, while Wyoming lacks any explosive offensive players.
I expect Pierce to have a big day for the Owls, while the defense will hold up well against the Cowboys offense. Temple’s lack of a passing game should keep the score low.
Predicted Final Score: Temple 20, Wyoming 14