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New Mexico Bowl
The first game of the bowl season features two teams relatively new to the scene. Washington State hasn't been to a bowl since 2003 while Colorado State last made it to one in 2008. The Pac-12 team gets the nod here as -4 point favorites at 5 dimes sportsbook, in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
Just over a month ago the Cougars were sitting at 4-5 and weren't in good shape for a bowl game with tough contests ahead. That all changed after upsetting Arizona on the road as 11-point underdogs and then beating Utah at home in back-to-back games to lock up their sixth win. The Arizona win along with an early win at USC highlight Wazzu's season. They even outgained Auburn in their season opener on the road, although losing 31-24.
The Rams are a bit of a different story, as they don't really have an impressive win on their resume. None of the teams they beat had a winning record, and they even lost to Colorado, the bottom barrel team in the Pac-12. Still, it's not like Colorado State was blown out by the top MWC teams, led by a potent passing and rushing attack on the offensive end.
Both teams have been solid against the spread for most of the year with WSU at 9-3 and CSU at 9-4.
Freshman running back Kapri Bibbs has come out of nowhere for the Rams and put in some incredible numbers this year with 1,572 yards and 28 touchdowns. The only question people have about that, like most of CSU's season, is that Bibbs didn't do much in the losses. In fact, he never surpassed 83 yards in the six losses. A part of that being because the Rams had to pass a ton playing from behind, and the other being because he was getting stuffed (2.8. yards per carry vs. Boise State and 3.0 yards per carry at Utah State). That's where quarterback Garrett Grayson comes in, who was the main reason Colorado State stayed respectable in a number of games. While Bibbs was the TD hawk, Grayson managed 397 yards against Boise, 310 yards and three TDs against SJSU and also a solid 228-yard, zero-interception game against Alabama.
Washington State's defense has been inconsistent all season long so it's a wonder what will happen in this one. They stopped USC to seven points, but then gave up 52 points to Oregon State. They held Arizona to 17 points on the road, then gave up 37 to Utah at home the next week. The Cougars don't have a great rush defense, so it may fall on Bibbs.
The Cougars offense is as one-dimensional as possible with quarterback Connor Halliday attempting a ridiculous (and nation-leading) 656 passes for 4,187 yards, 28 TDs and 21 INTs. Considering the Rams don't have a great pass defense, it's safe to say Halliday could go off in this game, although it may take him 50 pass attempts to get there (likely more). It goes without saying, but the WSU run game is last in the nation averaging 58.7 yards per game.
If the Colorado State defense is as bad as their numbers show (265 passing yards per game), it's set to be a high-scoring game. While the Rams defense may allow a ton of points, their offense has the ability to keep up with Grayson and Bibbs.
The Cougars are 10-3 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 3-1-1 ATS in their last five vs. the MWC. The Rams are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 vs. the Pac-12, 2-5 ATS in their last seven neutral site games and 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games.
If we look at the yards per point numbers for both teams, we see that they are very even. Both teams can move the ball while both teams struggle defensively. What stands out, is the schedule strength. Washington State has played a schedule that was almost two touchdowns more difficult (12 points by our numbers) than Colorado State. So, even yards per point numbers, but achieved against much different competition. Edge to Washington State.
Also consider that Washington State beat USC and Arizona and came within a TD of Auburn. Colorado State did play Alabama, but it was a 31-6 loss. Certainly, Washington State is the more battle tested of the two teams and has played a much higher level of competition. What we don't like, are blow out losses to Stanford, Oregon State, Oregon and Oregon State. That inconsistency is the primary reason we can't get involved here from a Key Release perspective.
Normally we'd question the motivation of a PAC-12 team playing Colorado State in a Bowl game. But since this is the Cougars first Bowl trip in a decade and they have no players on the roster who have experienced a Bowl game, they should be motivated plenty
As an opinion only, we'll side with Washington State to to turn their 6-6 season into a 7-6 winning season with a win and cover here. Washington State -4
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