Friday December 18th, 2009

Fresno State (8-4) vs. Wyoming (6-6) Dec. 19, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Reason To Watch: It's the first bowl of the season! Opportunities like this only come around 34 times a year. And it's only the second FBS game we've had in the past two weeks. Other than that ... well, you'll get to see the nation's leading rusher (per game), Fresno State's Ryan Mathews (151.3), who gashed Boise State for 234 yards and three touchdowns early in the season and ran for 173 yards and three scores at Illinois two weeks ago. He set a school record with nine straight 100-yard games to start the season. He's clearly this game's prime attraction.

Keep An Eye On: Mathews vs. Wyoming inside linebacker Brian Hendricks. The Cowboys' sophomore ranks sixth nationally in tackles per game (11.0) and notched the most tackles in a single game of any player this season with 23 in a 10-0 loss at Air Force on Oct. 17. Hendricks, recovered from an ankle sprain that cost him two games, will team with fellow inside backer Gabe Knapton (9.8) and safety Chris Prosinski (10.8) -- both of whom also rank in the Top 25 nationally in tackles -- to try to plug the gaps and prevent Mathews from finding running lanes.

Did You Know?: You may be asking yourself: Does anyone watch the New Mexico Bowl? Actually, yes. Last year's Fresno State-Colorado State matchup garnered a 2.6 rating (3.4 million viewers). That might not sound like much of an audience, but it's almost 40 percent more than ESPN gets for a big college basketball game (this season's highest so far was a 1.9 for Kentucky-Connecticut). The network's regular-season college football package averages 2.0.

Final Analysis: Fresno's four losses came to 13-0 Boise State, 12-0 Cincinnati, 9-3 Wisconsin and 8-4 Nevada. The Bulldogs aren't bad. Conversely, Wyoming -- with all due respect -- stinks. The Cowboys scored 10 points or less in all six of their losses. They didn't beat a single FBS team with even a .500 record. They rank 112th nationally in total offense (298.7 yards per game), 91st in rushing defense (170.5) and 83rd in total defense (395.6). The one thing they did well was not turn the ball over (plus-seven turnover margin), unlike their opponent (minus-nine).

The Pick: Fresno State 41, Wyoming 16. The Cowboys, which started seven true freshmen, have better days ahead. For now, they're about to be on the wrong end of another 200-plus rushing day by Mathews in a lopsided opening bowl.

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