New Mexico Bowl
December 20, 2013
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New Mexico Bowl (ESPN, 2:00 p.m.)
Colorado State Rams (7-6 SU, 9-4 ATS) vs. Washington State Cougars (6-6 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Washington State -5.5 & 66
Opening Line & Total: Cougars -3.5 & 65
The first step in the resurgence of the Washington State program under Mike Leach is in full tilt as his team is back in a bowl game, taking on Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday in Albuquerque.
Last season, the Cougars were able to win only three games, but have doubled that this season behind an air attack that averages 364.5 passing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the nation. In the season opener, WSU lost to the Auburn 31-24, and while it didn’t appear to be an important game at the time, Auburn is now in the national championship, showing the Cougars have the ability to play with anybody in the country. Washington State (9-3 ATS) has done a good job of beating all the teams it is supposed to beat (4-0 SU and ATS when favored), but its past five losses have all come by double figures, losing by an average of 26.8 PPG over these five defeats. The Cougars have faced many balanced offenses this season in Pac-12 play, and they are going up against another such offense in this bowl game.
Colorado State (9-4 ATS) has scored at least 27 points in all but two of its games, and one of those exceptions was against Alabama. The Rams have averaged more than 200 yards both rushing and passing this season, but Leach is 20-5 ATS (80%) versus good rushing teams (200+ YPG) as a collegiate head coach. However, excellent rushing teams (4.8+ YPC) such as Colorado State facing a poor rushing team (3.0 to 3.5 YPC) are 108-66 ATS (62%) over the past five seasons. Both of these teams have a tendency to struggle on defense, which should make for an entertaining, high-scoring game.
In a battle of two high-powered offenses, Washington State junior QB Connor Halliday (4,187 pass yards, 28 TD, 21 INT) has the ability to put up monster numbers, but he must limit the turnovers. In his team's six losses, he threw 14 interceptions, compared to just 10 touchdowns. When he remains composed and does not always try to make the big play, the Cougars can be a great on offense. What makes the passing game dangerous is their ability to spread the ball around to many different receivers. With so many passing yards, it is surprising to see that the leading receiver for Washington State is Gabe Marks, who has 69 catches for 770 yards and 6 TD on the season. The Cougars have nine different receivers with at least 200 yards this year, with eight of those receivers catching at least two touchdowns. However, the offense is too one-dimensional at times, ranking 123rd in the country with 58.7 rushing YPG on a paltry 3.1 YPC.
On defense, Washington State allows 31.3 PPG, which ranks 92nd in the country. The unit was playing well at the beginning of the year, holding USC to seven points in Week 2, but has been brutal in its losses, allowing 47.0 PPG in the six defeats. In a loss to Oregon State on Oct. 12, Beavers QB Sean Mannion threw for 493 yards and four touchdowns against the Cougars. The Rams have the ability to throw the ball, but can be equally as dangerous with their potent ground game.
Colorado State junior QB Garrett Grayson (3,327 pass yards, 21 TD and 10 INT) was very good this season, but he has not had to do it all on his own. Sophomore RB Kapri Bibbs (1,572 rush yards, 6.2 YPC and 28 TD) has been a star in his first season getting the carries, as his 28 scores rank second in the nation behind only Navy QB Keenan Reynolds. While his numbers are sensational, he has been somewhat inconsistent on the ground. Bibbs has rushed for over 200 yards in three of his past seven games, (including back-to-back games of 312 and 291) but has also been under 80 yards eight times this season, including three of his past five contests. However, Bibbs has shown enough ability to make the Cougars defense have to respect him, which will open up the passing attack for Grayson.
While the offense (35.3 PPG, 29th in FBS) has been very good, the defense has been subpar, allowing 28.6 PPG (79th in nation). The Rams have really struggled defending the pass, surrendering 265 YPG on 63% completions. Against San Jose State on Oct. 12, David Fales threw for 431 yards and three touchdowns. The bowl season offers many styles of games, and this matchup is for the fans that love high-scoring matchups. Expect lots of touchdowns to be scored in this contest that could go down to the wire.