Can the New Mexico Bowl Top Last Year's Finish?
If form holds, this should be an undercard worth watching.
The New Mexico Bowl kicks off today in Albuquerque, when Utah State (9-4) plays Texas El Paso (7-5).
If it's anything like last year's circus between Colorado State and Washington State, it'll be a decent reason to budget for beer and bar food at a social location near you.
Refreshing your memory, Mike Leach got a glimpse of what he's up against in changing the culture in Pullman, where Coug it is synonymous with pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.
This time around, it's the tenacious Aggies, from the Mountain West, who could be pulling a rabbit out of their helmet. They burned through three quarterbacks this season and still made it to a bowl. Coach Matt Wells has overseen impressive wins this year over Wake Forest and Air Force while keeping close to Colorado State and Arkansas State, losing by three and seven respectively.
UTEP, coached by Sean Kugler, plays in Conference USA, and while they didn't have a signature victory, the Miners played Texas Tech tough, losing 30-26. But they had their moments.
These teams seem evenly matched, as both averaged about 28 points, although the Miners gave up about a touchdown more per game than Utah State.
The Aggies have Jojo Natson, who is an electric receiver, punt returner, and kickoff returner. Defensively, Zach Vigil led the Mountain West in tackles and teams with his brother Nick to form a formidible tandem at linebacker.
Utah State, playing in only its ninth bowl game in school history, is looking for its third straight victory after defeating Toledo 41-15 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2012 and Northern Illinois last season, 21-14, in the Poinsettia Bowl.
UTEP hasn't won a post-season tilt since defeating Mississippi 14-7 in 1967, in El Paso's own Sun Bowl. Only snippets of game film exist.
The Miners' last bowl appearance was a 52-24 loss to BYU in -- where else? -- the 2010 New Mexico Bowl.
Jameill Showers leads the Miners at quarterback. He's thrown for 12 touchdowns and 1730 yards. Aaron Jones is UTEP's leading rusher, rushing for 1233 yards and 11 touchdowns. Defensively, Wesley Miller is the Miners' leading tackler.
Both offensives are explosive, so it may come down to who can actually make a rare stop when it counts. And most likely, it will count.