As per our tradition, we’ll be giving you a quick rundown on all the bowl games, no matter how ridiculous they may be. This way, we can make new friends and give you important insight that you can disregard as you make your bowl picks.
History: This is the fifth straight year of excellence in Albuquerque, the ballooning capital of the world. Previous match ups include the classics between San Jose State and New Mexico, and the two consecutive losses by Fresno State.
Originally created to bring tourism to New Mexico, this is yet another one of the bowl games that ESPN runs to fill the time in the holidays. Given how important it is to have a distraction from family that may not include alcohol, I raise my glass (OK, bad metaphor) to ESPN and New Mexico for their vision.
Led by Bronco Mendenhall, this year’s Cougar team has been a bit of a disappointment; after upsetting Washington, they fell to Air Force, Nevada, and TCU in addition to dropping the Holy War against Utah. Whatever will they do with that Beehiveboot shaped hole in their trophy case?
You probably have never heard of junior offensive lineman Matt Reynolds, a MWC first team award winner who has only given up one sack in his time with the Cougars. On defense, senior safety Andrew Rich also earned MWC first team honors, in part due to his 106 tackles and 3 interceptions.
Mike Price, who may be in his final year, leads the Miners of the University of Texas, El Paso; a team that did not manage a winning record in their own conference yet gets a bowl bid. With big victories over Memphis and SMU, the Miners have also dropped games to Marshall, Houston, and Buckeye opponent Arkansas. “Act like you’ve been there before”, UTEP, since you defeated New Mexico in this very stadium 38-20. This will be a contest between former WAC foes, who haven’t played since 1998. In addition, Coach Price recruited coach Mendhall out of high school… small world.
On defense, expect the Miners to struggle a bit against BYU’s offense. There are no individual standouts on the UTEP team defense, although Travaun Nixon has three interceptions and Wiston Jeune leads the team with 40 solo tackles.
Offensively, UTEP loves to get the ball in the air and Trevor Vittatoe has over 2500 yards passing on the season. His primary target is Kris Adams, who has 44 receptions leading to 11 TDs and over 900 yards.
UTEP/Buckeye connections: None that I could find on the football field, although the Scarlet and Gray have faced a Mike Price coached team as a part of the 2002 championship run.
Who Are We Picking?
Ultimately, I think this comes down to BYU’s ability to play defense- of the two squadrons, they have proven to be the most proficient in this area.