Before the season started, two of the four AthlonSports.com panelists that took part in offering their game-by-game predictions for BYU had the Cougars going to a bowl game in 2018. I'm happy to say that I was one of those two individuals.
BYU now has the opportunity to clinch a bowl game if it can defeat New Mexico State on Senior Night in Provo.
After last season’s 4-9 debacle, finishing a potential 6-6 finish (if not 7-5 depending on the outcome of next week's showdown with Utah) is a big step forward for a BYU football program that still lacks much momentum at the moment; but getting to the postseason was of the utmost importance for Kalani Sitake’s program. They can do just that with a win Saturday night on national television with a win over a 3-7 Aggies squad that has nothing left to play for.
New Mexico State at BYU
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Spread: BYU -24
Three Things to Watch
1. BYU looking to clinch bowl eligibility
It’s pretty simple for BYU. Win on Saturday night and you’re headed to a bowl game this postseason. Lose, and you then have the daunting challenge of trying to pull off an upset against rival Utah on the road the following Saturday to clinch bowl eligibility. Usually, games in November don’t mean much for BYU as an FBS Independent, but this one surely means a lot.
2. New Mexico State’s linebackers
NMSU boasts two of the top tacklers in college football this season in linebackers Javahn Ferguson and Leon McQuaker. These two are No. 1 and No. 3 respectively in tackles per game. Fifth on this list is Aggies defensive back Ron LaForce. These guys are good football players but what it really says is that the Aggie defense is on the field a lot. Along with racking up tackles, the unit will need to create some takeaways as well to keep this thing close.
3. BYU offense should dominate
The BYU offense had a pedestrian performance last week against one of the nation’s worst defenses in UMass. BYU’s offense has built some confidence each week with quarterback Zach Wilson and the Cougars will look to put up an impressive offensive performance to gain more confidence heading into the rivalry game with Utah to conclude the regular season.
This is the first opponent BYU has faced this year where the Cougars are better at every single position across the board. BYU will build a big lead early in this one just like it did against Hawaii in quarterback Zach Wilson’s first start. BYU rolls and the Cougars' defense, which has been playing lights out the past month, helps secure that critical sixth win and more importantly, bowl eligibility for the second time in Kalani Sitake's three seasons.
Prediction: BYU 48, New Mexico State 10
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.