The Southern Methodist University Mustangs will conclude a rollercoaster of a season on December 17 with an appearance in the New Mexico Bowl.
SMU will face Brigham Young University, playing for the last time as an independent school. BYU will join the Big 12 next season in preparation for the departure of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC in 2025.
SMU has appeared in 17 bowl games dating back to the 1924 season but has seen the last two opportunities scrubbed due to COVID-19.
The Mustangs qualified in both 2020 and 2021 under former head coach Sonny Dykes, who is now the head coach at TCU. Dykes led the Mustangs to a bowl in 2019, a loss to Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl. The New Mexico Bowl will be the first bowl appearance as head coach for SMU’s Rhett Lashlee.
In contrast, BYU is a regular participant in bowl games and has made an appearance every year from 2005 to 2022 except for the 2017 season. The Cougars lost the Independence Bowl in 2021 but won the Boca Raton Bowl in 2020. BYU has made a total of 39 appearances since 1974 with a 16-22-1 record. Head coach Kalani Sitake has led the Cougars to five bowl appearances in six years prior to accepting a bid to the New Mexico Bowl this year.
Playing in the American Athletic Conference, the Mustangs tallied a 5-3 conference record and finished 7-5 overall. SMU won five of the last seven games after snapping a three-game losing streak early in the season. The win streak included an epic shootout with the University of Houston that resulted in the highest combined score of a game in NCAA history.
SMU is fueled by the explosive and fast offensive attack headed by quarterback Tanner Mordecai and receiver Rashee Rice, who leads the nation in reception yards. Tyler Lavine has led the attack on the ground, averaging 155 yards per game. In 58 red zone trips this season, SMU scored 53 times.
The defense has been the weakness for the Mustangs in 2022. While the offense scored a staggering 77 points against Houston, the defense gave up 63 points. Just two weeks ago, SMU surrendered 59 points to Tulane in a game that saw the Mustangs’ offense get shut down.
BYU’s Jaren Hall led the Cougars to a 7-5 record capped off with a win over Stanford University to close out the 2022 season. Hall left the game with an ankle injury. The team described this as a cautionary step, with the expectation that Hall will play. Not only is Hall essential as the starting quarterback, he is also the team’s second-leading rusher.
BYU knows already that backup QB Jacob Conover will not play. The team may also be playing without leading wide receiver Puka Nacua, who could forego the game to enter the NFL draft.
The New Mexico Bowl is played in Albuquerque and will be held on Saturday, December 17. The kick-off was shifted to 6:30 pm CST to accommodate the Las Vegas Raiders and the Las Vegas Bowl, allowing time for the NFL team to prepare the field.