December 19, 2008

New Mexico Bowl Preview: Two Teams in Different Directions Meet in the Land of Enchantment

Colorado State (6-6) vs. Fresno State (7-5)
12:30 p.m. (MT), ESPN
Announcers:  Joe Tessitore, Rod Gillmore
Albuquerque, NM, University Stadium

Last Five Bowl Games

Colorado State:  2-3 (First appearance in a bowl since 2005. Last Win: 2001 New Orleans, North Texas, 45-20)
Fresno State:  4-1 (Last Year:  Humanitarian, Georgia Tech, 40-28 Win)

Players To Watch

Colorado State:  Gartrell Johnson, Running Back

Known by his peers as, "The Predator" because of his dreadlocks.  Johnson is a beast for a running back, and wears defenses down as the game progresses.  Johnson ran for almost five yards per carry this season, en route to rushing for a total of 1,228 yards.  Fresno State has a talented defense, but this is probably the best running back Fresno has faced since playing against Wisconsin and their stud of a back, P.J. Hill.  The Bulldogs have faced some good backs this year, Ian Johnson from Boise State and Colin Kaepernick from Nevada.  "The Predator" is really good.  He could emerge as a better known name in the College Football world with a big bowl performance.  Similar to what East Carolina's Chris Johnson did last year, now he's tearing it up with the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

Fresno State:  Return Specialists

Fresno State's two-headed monster in the return game has been one of the bright spots for the Bulldogs this season, in a year where BCS was running in the minds for the fans out in the Fresno Valley.  Rashad Evans and AJ Jefferson are the two guys you need to watch.  Evans leads the Bulldogs in punt returns at 14.2 yards a pop, which is seventh best in the nation.  AJ Jefferson has returned a kick for a TD this season and has totaled 908 yards this season on 31 returns, which is 17th best in the nation.


These two teams are in completely different directions heading into this bowl game.  Fresno State as mentioned had aspirations for a BCS game at season's end, but Pat Hill's questionable scheduling tactics did the 'Dogs in again and they struggled in WAC play losing games they shouldn't have.
Colorado State was a program in flux coming into the season.  The Rams practically ran off the coach who's name graces their stadium in Sonny Lubick, and replaced him with Steve Fairchild who came from the Buffalo Bills.  Fairchild brought a new sense of excitement to Fort Collins, as they were very competitive this season.  Losing to Mountain West powers TCU by only six and BYU by 3.  The Rams were also competitive in the Rocky Mountain Showdown against rival Colorado for about a half but wore in half number two.

This game should be interesting, and is a lot better matchup than people would suggest.  For Fresno State to win this game they need to get Quarterback Tom Brandstater's confidence up, with some quick completions early on and get the Bulldog offense going, which has been inconsistent this season.  For Colorado State, they need to get Johsnon "The Predator" going, if they establish the running game Colorado State should win this one and possible run away with it.

Excitement Level (1 to 5):  4


Colorado State 30  Fresno State 14

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