Preview: New Mexico Bowl features a spicy pairing

New and improved logo for the 5th Annual New Mexico Bowl.


Next Game

BYU Cougars
@ UTEP Miners

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010, 12:00 PM MST
New Mexico Bowl - University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM 

TV: ESPN

Complete Coverage >



The time is here again for college bowl season to start.  Kicking off the festivities is once again the New Mexico Bowl played down in Albuquerque.  Meeting up will be a pair of 6-6 teams in the BYU Cougars and the UTEP Miners. They also broke out a brand new logo for the fifth edition of this battle in the "Land of Enchantment".  This usual MWC-WAC game is now a MWC-CUSA pairing this year due to the WAC not having enough bowl eligible teams. 

Now we have two former WAC foes that will meet once again. This has been lopsided series lately with the Cougars taking 25 of the last 27 meetings.  BYUmust also deal with their final exams that currently happening so you may see a few text books in their huddle. 

I know that the New Mexico Bowl doesn't get a lot of respect but it is a very underrated bowl and here are five great reasons why you should tune in:

  1. Great bowl game theme.  Last year I cooked up a huge pot of green chili and then we also had a giant stack of taquitos to snack on. You can be creative with what foods you eat during the game.  Anything beats the dehydrated rations that your buddy will serve for the Military Bowl this year.
  2. This game a dark side.  No.. seriously this bowl game is CURSED.  The winning team in the New Mexico Bowl has never had a winning season since.  Teams effected include: San Jose State, New Mexico, Colorado State and Wyoming. 
  3. The curse creates a unique situation.  If you are a fan of one of the teams playing do you root for your team to win or lose?  If you hate one of the teams do you root for them win the bowl game and become cursed or would it pain you to much to do so.  Quite the predicament we have here.
  4. Can Mike Price save his job?  After struggling the last couple years the Miners may looking to pick axe Price if he doesn't impress the adminstration this weekend.  If they do fire Price what rule/law breaking coach will be hired next by the Miners?
  5. It's the weekend before Christmas and you do not wan't to be outside trying to shop for anything.  Save yourself the stress and plant your butt on that couch.

If that didn't convince you then let's dive a little deeper into the two teams that will squaring on Saturday at high noon.  We'll tell what to expect from the crowd and the teams as you keep reading. 

But how big will the crowd be this year you ask?  Well these two teams are actually great for the hotels and restaurants of the Duke City.  BYU has a large fanbase and they always travel well while UTEP fans can enjoy a easy four drive north in order to watch there team. The last two years Fresno State has represented the WAC and their fan base could all fit in a Mini Cooper with plenty of elbow room.  The Mountain West has always carried the most fans for this game since it is hosted at MWC school but the stands should be filled well on both sides of the stadium for a change.  

Could be a record crowd on Saturday if this report is true.     

BYU:

The BYU Cougars will appearing in their final bowl game as a member of the Mountain West Conference.  It seemed like BYU had a permanent invitation to the Las Vegas Bowl but after a very rough year they are just happy to be playing in any bowl game.  After a 1-4 start it looked this was going to be a huge disaster for Bronco Mendenhall and his team.  Once Bronco started firing coaches and took the defense over then things turned around as they finished 5-2 to become bowl eliglbe.

Jake Heaps is the wunderkin freshman QB that is supposed to lead BYU to amazing heights.  Well that didn't happen so far but he still has plenty of time to improve. He threw for over 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns with 8 interceptions on the year.  His completion percentage was 55 percent but it is not all his fault.  For some reason all the BYU receivers started a pregame ritual of greasing their hands up with bacon grease which resulted in an incredible amount of dropped passes.  The bacon grease may be a bit much something has to account their inate ability to drop any object thrown their direction.

The struggles in the passing game forced BYU to heavily rely on their running game to move the ball and put some points on the board.  JJ Di Luigi is not one of the Mario Bros. but instead the teams leading rusher.  He averaged five yards a carry and totaled 789 yards so far plus seven touchdowns.  Bryan Kariya (509 yards) and Joshua Quezeda (393 yards) are the larger backs who are brought in for short yard situations. 

The defense is the main reason that the Cougars are playing in a bowl game instead of sitting at home.  Over the last four games they gave up just 41 total points and went 3-1 over that span.  On the season the defense allowed 21.4 points and 339 yards per game.  If they can keep their intensity then except a tough game for the Miners.     

 UTEP:

Mike Price wasted no time in taking a shot at BYU and their AARP card carrying roster.  No doubt Cougar fans will have plenty to say on Price and his comments so expect some good signs in the crowd from both sides. 

"Their offensive line is 6-foot-6, 315 (pounds) across the board, average age 32, four kids," Price quipped. "They are very good on the offensive line. They are huge."

UTEP will the be home team and wearing their signature orange and navy uniforms.  It is a much better color combination than Boise State and way easier on the eyes.  If love having your eyes bleed then watch the Humanitarian Bowl that airs after the New Mexico Bowl and is played on the blue turf of Boise. 

Miner fans were all excited that they started the season 5-1 but with wins over Arkansas - Pine Bluff, Memphis, Rice, New Mexico and New Mexico State are you really that impressed?  The fact they beat 1-11 Memphis by only three points can't be a great moral booster either.  Luckily they knocked off SMU who had actually had a winning record and here we are now.

The Miners have not posted a winning record under Price since going 8-4 back to back in 2004 and 2005.  The fact he has lasted this long is impressive on his part.  However he has not gotten the backing of the Athletic Department which is creating some uncertainty for the team and prospects.  Several recruits have gone elsewhere the last couple weeks since they don't know what their future would hold in El Paso.

Senior QB Trevor Vittatoe has been a four year starter and this will be his final game in the orange and blue. His best season was a sophomore when he threw for 3274 yards and 32 touchdowns with a QB rating of 101.  He has gone downhill since then and this has been his worst season statisically with just 2511 yards, 19 touchdowns and an 80.9 QB rating. 

The top target for Vittatoe is always WR Kris Adams who has 44 catches for 917 yards and 11 touchdowns.  A solid performance in the bowl game could put the 6-3 receiver over the 1000 yard mark for the first time in his career. Adams averaged 20 yards a catch and with his 6-3 frame is a big threat to the BYU secondary.  The ground game consists mainly of Joe Banyard who has 597 yards and rushing 8 touchdowns on the year.  The Miners will always look to the air first before trying to grind out a win on the ground.

The defense for the Miners allowed 25.4 points a game and 404 total yards. Houston and Arkansas both put up over 50 points but none of their other ten opponents scored more than 34.  Twice they allowed just 10 points in wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and New Mexico State.  If they can cut down on their 181 rushing yards allowed they should have a solid shot a winning this one.    

PREDICTION:  This game is actually decided way before kickoff.  All you have to do is use your culinary senses to find out the outcome of this game.  BYU won the green chili cook off on Wednesday which means that they will then lose the game.  The champ in the kitchen is always the loser on the field in all four years.  Expect UTEP to win 35-24 and become the next team to suffer the New Mexico Bowl curse.  The better team on paper is not typically the one that wins in this bowl game. 

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