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Prediction for Arizona vs. New Mexico

Posted at 11:11 AM, Dec 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-19 17:08:30-05

The Arizona Wildcats followed up a promising 2014 season that included a Pac-12 South championship with a frustrating 6-6 campaign in 2015.

But the Wildcats have an opportunity to head into 2016 with some momentum by beating the New Mexico Lobos (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West) on their home field during Saturday's Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Here are three questions and a prediction for that game, which begins at 12 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.

1. Will Anu pick the Lobos apart?

Anu Solomon had an up-and-down 2015 season, looking like an elite quarterback at times but struggling with ineptitude and injuries at others. The sophomore missed the Territorial Cup with a concussion but should be good to go Saturday.

Will Solomon, who has six multi-TD passing games this season, pick apart a New Mexico defense that was second to last in the Mountain West against the pass?

2. Can the Wildcats revive their running game?

Arizona’s rushing attack was outstanding in the first half of the season but faltered down the stretch, thanks in part to an injury to sophomore tailback Nick Wilson. He and senior Jared Baker combined for just nine rushing yards on as many carries during UA’s loss at ASU. Wilson is out once again Saturday, meaning it’ll likely be up to Baker to carry the load.

The Lobos have an adequate rushing defense, allowing 4.5 yards per rush, the fifth-best mark in the Mountain West – but can four weeks of rest help revitalize Baker and the Cats’ rushing attack?

3. Will the triple option trip up the Cats?

The Wildcats have yet to face an offense in 2015 like the run-heavy triple-option run by the Lobos, who have attempted just 208 passes on the season while rushing the ball 569 times. New Mexico has a trio of running backs – senior Jhurell Pressley, junior Teriyon Gipson and sophomore Lamar Jordan -- who have each rushed for over 600 yards and at least six touchdowns.

Arizona has allowed 26 rushing touchdowns, the second-most among Pac-12 teams -- but 2014 All-American linebacker Scooby Wright III will return to the field Saturday. Will the junior be able to help the defense sniff out the Lobos’ triple-option attack?

Prediction:

The Wildcats predictably took a step back after last season’s Pac-12 South championship, but this is still a team loaded with weapons on offense, and the Cats have had nearly a month to heal up. Scooby’s return should provide some leadership and toughness to a defense that has lacked both throughout the year.

This will essentially be a home game for the Lobos, but UA is simply more talented and explosive. Look for the Wildcats to earn their seventh victory of the season and build a bit of momentum heading into RichRod’s fifth season in the desert.

Arizona 42, New Mexico 31