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New Mexico Bowl Preview | SMU vs. BYU

Sports

Southern Methodist University quarterback Tanner Mordecai | Image by Getty Images

The New Mexico Bowl game is the traditional start of the College Bowl games. On December 17, Southern Methodist University will face Brigham Young University in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

SMU (7-5) will represent the American Athletic Conference, while BYU (7-5) is independent. This will be the last season for BYU as an independent before joining the Big 12 next summer.

“The bowl game is supposed to be a reward,” SMU head coach Rhett Lashlee said during a press conference last week. “It’s an opportunity for us to play a really good opponent in a good atmosphere, and go to Albuquerque and have a great experience, and our guys have fun. And we want to win, don’t get me wrong … but this game won’t define our season or our program. I think we have a lot of things we can build on going into the offseason next year, anyways. So, we want to go out, and we want to play really well and try to find a way to win.”

Lashlee informed the media that star wide receiver Rashee Rice will not play in the Bowl Game. Rice has been dealing with a toe injury for several weeks that does not require surgery but needs rest to heal.

The team made the decision to sit Rice to give his toe time to heal before the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. Rice has already declared for the NFL draft and is likely to draw lots of interest from NFL teams after leading the nation in receiving yards in 2022.

The BYU Cougars will enter the game in similar straights after news this week that starting quarterback Jaren Hall may have suffered a setback in dealing with an injury to his ankle.

“Yesterday, I thought [Hall] had a great chance to play. Today, I would say his chances are not quite as good as I had hoped. But there’s still a chance,” BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said.

Behind Hall are two largely untested quarterbacks. Cade Fennegan is listed as the backup, but he has not taken a snap in two years — the last time was with Boise State — and he has also been dealing with an ankle injury.

The Cougars also have Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters on the roster. Maiava-Peters has been in the program for several years and last took snaps with the team two years ago in blowout games, stepping in to relieve the starter when the game was out of hand.

Roderick would not commit to one player or the other as the starter on Saturday, instead saying that the decision will come down to who can operate the offense the most efficiently in the hope of getting a win.

The New Mexico Bowl is held at University Stadium, which sits at nearly one mile in elevation, a unique challenge for SMU players but less of one for BYU, which also plays home games at nearly 5,000 ft.

The game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CST on Saturday. Game-day weather is expected to be dry, clear, and cold, with a high temperature of 38 degrees and a low of 20.

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