New Mexico Bowl Picks, Predictions and Odds: UTEP vs. Fresno State

Dec. 18, 2021
Jonathan Willis
VI Betting Expert

The New Mexico Bowl this season features the UTEP Miners taking on the impressive Fresno State Bulldogs. Opening kick is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN from the University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Score Prediction

Fresno State 24, UTEP 20

Best Bets

UTEP +12.5 (-110) at Westgate SuperBook

New Mexico Bowl Predictions

The UTEP Miners are bowling for the first time in seven years. Dana Dimel may have turned around the program, and he has the Miners back in a familiar place. Each of UTEP’s last three bowl trips have been to the New Mexico Bowl, but they have come up short in their previous two attempts. Their last bowl victory came all the way back in 1967 when they beat Ole Miss in the Sun Bowl.

There is a huge question mark hanging over this game. Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener’s status is up in the air for the New Mexico Bowl showdown with UTEP. If Haener is unable to play, that would lead to the odds in this game falling since there is not an experienced quarterback behind him. That makes the Miners the play (and worth a moneyline shot) although they are clearly the less talented team.

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New Mexico Bowl Betting Resources

  • Matchup: CUSA vs. Mountain West
  • Date: Saturday, December 18, 2021
  • Venue: University Stadium
  • Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • TV-Time: ESPN, 2:15 p.m. ET

UTEP Miners Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 7-5
  • ATS: 7-5
  • O/U: 7-5

Sophomore Gavin Hardison had a decent year under center for UTEP. He will surpass 3,000 yards on the season with 34 yards against Fresno State, but he has thrown interceptions in nine of his 12 games. Hardison isn’t a mobile threat either, so he has negative rushing yardage despite being sacked just 17 times.

UTEP does have an elite receiver in Jacob Cowing. Cowing had 67 receptions for 1,330 yards and seven touchdowns, and he earned First Team All-Conference USA accolades. Justin Garrett and Tyrin Smith are the other receivers to watch on this team.

Ronald Awatt is the leading rusher on UTEP. However, he has been boom or bust throughout the year. Awatt has rushed for 3.1 YPC or less in six games and rushed for 5.0 YPC or more in his other six games. Deion Hankins is only averaging 3.7 YPC as the second leading rusher.

The Miners have a decent defense. They are allowing just 6.5 YPA to quarterbacks, and they rank 78th in Defensive SP+. Praise Amaewhule is the one to watch on this side of the ball.

Fresno State Bulldogs Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 9-3
  • ATS: 8-4
  • O/U: 5-7

The presence or absence of Haener will have an enormous effect on this game. Haener was pivotal in Fresno State’s upset of UCLA earlier this season, and he has thrown for over 3,800 yards with 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The star quarterback entered the transfer portal after head coach Kalen DeBoer left for Washington, but he withdrew from the portal recently. Interim head coach Lee Marks has been mum on whether Haener will start as a result of his decision, so we might see freshmen Logan Fife or Jaylen Henderson start in his place.

Fresno State’s ground game hasn’t been too effective, so the absence of Haener would really hurt. The Bulldogs averaged 3.9 YPC and 127.9 YPG on the ground. Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims are the two running backs to watch here.

This is an above average defense. Fresno State ranks 48th in Defensive SP+. The Bulldogs are allowing 3.8 YPC, and the secondary has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 52.8% of their passes. Defensive back Evan Williams led the team in tackles and interceptions and was a First Team All-MWC pick.

Fresno State has covered the spread in five of its last six games away from home. (AP)

Inside the Stats - UTEP Miners

  • Record: 7-5
  • VI Ranking: 101
  • Points Scored: 302
  • Points Allowed: 297
  • PS/G: 25.2 (89th)
  • PA/G: 24.8 (53rd)

Inside the Stats - Fresno State Bulldogs

  • Record: 9-3
  • VI Ranking: 36
  • Points Scored:
  • Points Allowed:
  • PS/G:
  • PA/G:

Key Players to Watch

  • UTEP: Gavin Hardison - QB (186/332, 2,966 yards, 16 TD, 12 INT)
  • UTEP: Jacob Cowing - WR (67 catches, 1,330 yards, 7 TD)
  • FRES: Ronnie Rivers - RB (170 carries, 788 yards, 5 TD)
  • FRES: Jordan Mims - RB (98 carries, 545 yards, 4 TD)

New Mexico Bowl Betting Conclusion

If Haener doesn’t play, this could be a pretty low scoring game. New head coach Jeff Tedford might want to have Haener sit briefly or the full game in order to set a tone, and that would give UTEP a great chance to pull off the upset as a double-digit underdog.

New Mexico Bowl Betting Trends

  • UTEP has seen the favorite cover the spread in four straight games.
  • Fresno State has gone UNDER the point total in five of its last six games when facing a non-AP-ranked school.
  • Fresno State has covered the spread in five of its last six games away from home.