New Mexico Bowl Odds, Picks for Fresno State vs. UTEP: Bet the Miners in High-Scoring Affair (December 17)

New Mexico Bowl Odds, Picks for Fresno State vs. UTEP: Bet the Miners in High-Scoring Affair (December 17) article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Gavin Hardison (left) and Jake Haener (right).

  • Fresno State enters the New Mexico as -11.5 favorites over UTEP, according to updated odds.
  • The Bulldogs have a number of question marks, including at quarterback, as the starter won't be announced until the team takes the field.
  • Collin Wilson breaks down the game and shares his top betting pick based on his analysis.

New Mexico Bowl Odds for Fresno State vs. UTEP

Saturday, Dec. 18
2:15 p.m. ET
Fresno State Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

In a short span of 24 months, the teams in the New Mexico Bowl have undergone a complete transformation. Fresno State finished the 2019 season 4-8 with Jeff Tedford retiring as head coach due to health issues.

That team was asked to rebuild in a pandemic season of 2020, where new head coach Kalen DeBoer did not have access to facilities for most of the summer. DeBoer had a masterful 2021, beating UCLA and coming within a possession of beating Oregon.

This will be the Bulldogs' first bowl in three years since a win over Arizona State in the 2018 Las Vegas Bowl.

DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb have accepted positions at Washington, leaving recently-promoted Kirby Moore as the new offensive coordinator and play-caller for the New Mexico Bowl.

Tedford has returned as head coach after an improvement in health, which should put the Bulldogs in contention for the Mountain West in 2022.

During that whirlwind for Fresno State, a similar transformation happened with the UTEP program. Head coach Dana Dimel had just recorded back-to-back seasons with a 1-11 record, as the Miners needed a complete rebuild from the ground up.

Dimel, a longtime assistant and alumnus of Kansas State and Bill Snyder, wanted to build a physical team with a focus on defense.

Oddsmakers set the 2021 season win total at 3, a number UTEP surpassed by the first weekend of October.

Led by one of the best defenses in the Group of Five, the Miners have the chance to win their first bowl game since 1967. There is no lack of motivation with the underdog when these teams kick from Albuquerque.

Fresno State Bulldogs

The status of quarterback Jake Haener remains unknown leading up to kickoff.

After entering the transfer portal to presumably follow DeBoer to Washington, Haener exited the portal for a return to Fresno State, which prompted an apology video to his teammates and fans of the university. The video indicates a return under Tedford in 2022 helped him make his decision but doesn't mention the New Mexico Bowl.

A message from @jakehaener10#GoDogs |

— Fresno State Football 🧸 (@FresnoStateFB) December 9, 2021

Logan Fife and Jaylen Henderson are behind Haener on the depth chart and have combined for 21 passing attempts on the season. Neither has posted a big-time throw or turnover-worthy play, leaving this offense in the hands of the rushing attack.

Both Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims have shown flashes of excellence in both rushing attempts and a combined 69 targets in the passing game.

Ronnie Rivers gets the first touchdown on the board for @FresnoStateFB


— Stadium (@Stadium) November 14, 2021

Defensive coordinator William Inge is still with the program, recently tweeting about the New Mexico Bowl and Washington football.

Fresno State is fifth in the country in Defensive Havoc and coverage grade. While the 4-2-5 base defense ranks among the top 25 in limiting explosive plays, a low blitz rate of 21% has the Bulldogs low in Sack Rate.

This is a highly-graded defense from a Success Rate standpoint, but the Bulldogs have been vulnerable in long downs and distances. Fresno State is 96th in defending the explosive play in passing downs, an area in which the UTEP offense has the ability to gain available yards.

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UTEP Miners

The turnaround for Miner Nation can be directly linked to the defense.

New defensive coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto stressed fundamentals and preventing explosive plays during the preseason. That methodology has produced a unit that grades 11th in tackling and 15th in big play percentage.

The 4-2-5 base blitzes on 25% of snaps and ended the season 31st in Havoc. Second-leading tackler Tyrice Knight has missed just four tackles in 715 plays this season.

While the defense has been sound on execution, the Miners offense struggles to gain yards on the ground. UTEP runs on 57% of snaps through a two-back set, even with a bottom-five rank in Line Yards.

The rushing attack is 119th in Success Rate, leaving the bulk of the yards and points up to the arm of quarterback Gavin Hardison. UTEP is second in the nation in passes exceeding 50 yards.

2Q | TOUCHDOWN MINERS!! @GavinHardison12 slings a 76-yard score to @jaycowing_

⛏ 7
🟢 0

⏰ 13:01

— UTEP Football (@UTEPFB) November 13, 2021

Hardison has an absolute cannon, but the sophomore has no issues throwing into traffic. The quarterback has notched 24 turnover-worthy plays to just 18 big-time throws. Hardison takes a 13% drop in adjusted completion percentage with a pressured pocket.

UTEP is the top overall offense in the nation when it comes to passing downs explosiveness, an area Fresno State struggles to defend.

Fresno State vs. UTEP Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Fresno State and UTEP match up statistically:

Fresno State Offense vs. UTEP Defense
Rush Success11318
Line Yards10815
Pass Success1130
Pass Blocking**10232
Big Play3915
Finishing Drives6570
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

UTEP Offense vs. Fresno State Defense
Rush Success11933
Line Yards12521
Pass Success197
Pass Blocking**3642
Big Play5322
Finishing Drives9943
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling2611
Middle 83099
SP+ Special Teams6154
Plays per Minute53115
Rush Rate46.1% (121)57.1% (47)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Fresno State vs. UTEP Betting Pick

The early action in the opening market was all UTEP, moving from over two touchdowns to +11 with Haener not expected to be under center for a first-time offensive coordinator.

The Bulldogs will look to Rivers, but the fifth-year senior has slowed in the second half of the season. Rivers created 41 missed tackles on the season, but only eight came over the final four games.

The UTEP defense will be allowed to stuff the box against two quarterbacks who are light on experience.

The handicap is whether or not the UTEP offense can connect on explosive plays. Fresno struggles to contain the explosive play in passing downs, as a pass rush rank of 42nd may not be enough to get consistent pressure. If allowed to sit in the pocket against minimal blitz, Hardison can connect with his favorite third-down target in Jacob Cowing.

Our Action Network projection without Haener at quarterback is Fresno State -11. The market has adjusted to the quarterback situation with the Bulldogs, but considering the coaching changes, this could be a team slow to adjust mid-game.

Any UTEP number down to +11 has value on a Miners team that has plenty of motivation.

A projected total of 57 indicates value on the over, but those numbers expect the same quarterback production from Fresno State. UTEP is one of the slowest-paced offenses in the nation and will depend solely on the explosive play to put points on the board.

With both scoring units outside the top half of FBS in Offensive Finishing Drives, going over the posted total is only suggested at the key number of 51.

Pick: UTEP +11 or Better · Over 51 (-120) or Better

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