Complete notes with schedules, rankings and more available in the attached PDF.
NOMINATE YOUR NEW MEXICO TRUE HERO TODAY: The State of New Mexico, along with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, is searching for New Mexico True Heroes; New Mexicans who make extraordinary efforts to make their communities a better place to live, work, and raise families. This honor is intended to recognize New Mexicans who contribute in exceptional ways to the enhancement of our state. The New Mexico True Heroes program will acknowledge the selfless acts of four individuals or groups striving to enhance the quality of life in their community. Anyone can nominate a True Hero at www.GildanNewMexicoBowl.com or NewMexico.org/TrueHeroes. Nominations remain open through October 3, 2014. A panel of judges from around the state will determine the top ten finalists, and four New Mexico True Heroes will be named this fall. Those Heroes will take part in a series of community events in their hometowns and get special recognition during the festivities surrounding the 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
2014 GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL: The 2014 game, slated for Dec. 20 at 12:20 p.m. MT/2:20 p.m. ET, will be the ninth annual bowl played at University Stadium in Albuquerque. It is the first time in six years that the Gildan New Mexico Bowl will not kick off the postseason. However, it is the seventh straight year the game will be played on first day of the bowl season.
The Gildan New Mexico Bowl is partnered with the Mountain West and Conference USA, provided the league produces enough bowl-eligible teams. The C-USA representative is scheduled to be the home team this year.
FOLLOW THE GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL ONLINE: The Gildan New Mexico Bowl is keeping fans updated with its website, Facebook page and Twitter accounts. By becoming a follower of our social network pages, you will have the opportunity to receive breaking news, score updates, and special announcements. Please visit www.facebook.com/newmexicobowl, or twitter.com/GildanNMbowl. And don’t forget to visit our website at www.GildanNewMexicoBowl.com.
GILDAN RENEWS COMMITMENT TO NEW MEXICO: ESPN and Gildan Activewear Inc. (GIL: TSX, NYSE) announced today an extension to the multi-year title sponsorship that began with the 2011 Gildan New Mexico Bowl. The entitlement of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl remains part of a collegiate agreement reached by ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN, and Gildan, one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of T-shirts, fleece, sport shirts, underwear and socks. In addition to the bowl game, over the years, Gildan has been active in the Albuquerque community, participating in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, launching a Green Chile Stew Cook-off, with cash prizes going to local schools, hosting bowl-week parties and other activities.
SOME NEW FACES: The Gildan New Mexico Bowl and Conference USA are in the first year of a six-year contract for a C-USA team. The league is not stranger to the Albuquerque-based game, having a representative in our 2010 game as UTEP played BYU as an at-large selection. In the 2014 season, a 13-team alignment will feature each team playing eight conference games, along with four non-league contests. There are seven teams in the East Division and six teams in the West Division. FIU, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UAB and WKU comprise the East Division, while Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, UTEP and UTSA make up the West Division. Each school in the West Division will play every team in its division once for five games, while playing three cross-over opponents from the opposite division. Three schools in the East Division will play every team in its division once for six games, while playing two cross-over opponents from the opposite division. Four schools in the East Division will play five opponents in its division once for five games, while playing three cross-over opponents from the opposite division. East Division schools playing five division games were randomly selected by a computer scheduling application and two intra-division matchups in the East will not take place this season.
BOWL PREDICTIONS: The bowl season doesn’t begin for four months but that hasn’t stopped several football writers from making their predictions. North Texas, from Conference USA, garners six of the nine nods from around the nation. Five different teams from the Mountain West are projected with Nevada leading the way with four. Here is the breakdown of what has been selected for the 2014 bowl game:
Athlon Sports: North Texas (C-USA) vs. San Diego State (MW)
CampusInsiders.com: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
CBS Sports/Jerry Palm: Rice (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
CFN.Scout.com: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
ESPN (Mark Schlabach’s pick): North Texas (C-USA) vs. San Diego State (MW)
ESPN (Brett McMurphy’ pick): UTSA (C-USA) vs. Fresno State (MW)
NFL.com/College Football 24/7: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
Phil Steele: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Colorado State (MW)
SB Nation: UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
THIS WEEK’S GAME TO WATCH FOR: The season kicks off for the Mountain West on Thursday night is a big way. Boise State takes on the SEC’s Ole Miss for the first time in the Georgia Dome on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT. Also meeting for the first time that night are the MW’s San Jose State and North Dakota.
Friday night, the age-old battle of Colorado vs. Colorado State resumes. Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colo. plays host to the 86th game in the series, which is also airing on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. MT. Also airing to a national audience Friday night is UNLV at Arizona on ESPN.
Saturday, Conference USA’s Florida Atlantic goes into Lincoln for an up-hill battle with Nebraska on the Big Ten Network at 2:30 p.m. CT/1:30 p.m. MT. C-USA’s Rice is also playing in hostile territory, taking on Notre Dame at 3:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. MT on NBC. For the MW, all eyes will be on Fresno State, which looks to avenge last year’s 45-20 loss to USC. The Trojans, leading the series 2-1, square off with the Bulldogs on FOX at 4:30 p.m. PT/5:30 p.m. MT. The MW and C-USA face off for the first time in 2014 with a storied rivalry between UTEP and New Mexico at 6 p.m. MT on the Mountain West Network. The Lobos slipped past the Miners, 42-35, in overtime last year.
The weekend concludes for our partner leagues on Sunday as Utah State takes the field against Tennessee for the first time on the SEC Network at 7 p.m. ET/5 p.m. MT.
TALE OF THE TURNSTILES: Every week we like to tally the attendances from each Mountain West and Conference USA team to see what kind of draw they get. Last year, every team in both conference drew over 20,000 fans per game and all but two seated over 25,000. In 2013, Boise State led the MW with an average of 37,774 per game while Southern Mississippi led C-USA with 32,750. A complete breakdown of each team’s attendance figures from 2013 is available in the attached PDF.
A PREVIEW OF THINGS TO COME: The Mountain West and Conference USA are slated to face each other just four times in the regular season before squaring off in the ninth annual Gildan New Mexico Bowl. These two have faced off in our bowl once before as the UTEP Miners fell 52-24 in 2010 as an at-large bid to then-Mountain West member, BYU. The game was the second-largest crowd in the Bowl’s history at 32,424, thanks to the thousands of Miner fans who made the short trip up to Albuquerque.
This year, UTEP and New Mexico will open the season with a battle in Albuquerque on Saturday, Aug. 30. Three weeks later (Sept. 20), C-USA’s Florida Atlantic will visit Wyoming in Laramie. In Week 6 (Oct. 4), the MW will finally play the visitor as New Mexico goes to UTSA and Hawai`i plays at Rice. Below is a week-by-week breakdown of the regular season match-ups:
Week 1 - UTEP (C-USA) at New Mexico (MW)
Week 4 - Florida Atlantic (C-USA) at Wyoming (MW)
Week 6 - New Mexico (MW) at UTSA (C-USA); Hawai`i (MW) at Rice (C-USA)
NEW MEXICO BOWL CONNECTIONS: The NFL has not required teams to make final roster cuts yet but as of Friday, Aug. 22, there are currently 69 former collegiate athletes who played in at least one of the previous New Mexico Bowls and is listed as active, practice squad or injured reserve among 27 of the 32 teams. The Denver Broncos boast the most reps (5), followed closely by the San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, and Washington Redskins, which all have four alumni. From the universities standpoint, Fresno State has produced the most active alum with 15. Temple is second with 11 and Nevada is third with 10. Six, Shaquil Barrett, Kapri Bibbs, Crockett Gillmore, and Weston Richburg from Colorado State’s and Washington State’s Deone Bucannon and John Fullington, participated in last year’s game. All-time, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl has had 115 alumni listed on an NFL roster. A complete list of the athletes is available in the attached PDF.
C-USA ANNOUNCES PRESEASON AWARDS: A trio of senior standouts headline the list of 2014 preseason Conference USA Football award winners, as chosen by the league’s 13 head coaches. Marshall senior QB Rakeem Cato was tabbed the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Marshall senior DL James Rouse was named the Defensive Player of the Year and UAB senior P Hunter Mullins earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors. Marshall had the most overall preseason selections with seven, while UTSA had five. Rice and UTEP each placed three players on the team. Nine C-USA schools had at least one player named to the squad.
Marshall was unanimously chosen as the preseason favorite to win the East Division. North Texas was picked as the team favored to take the West Division crown, narrowly edging Rice and UTSA. The 10th annual Conference USA Football Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West divisions, will be held Saturday, Dec. 6.
BOISE STATE, FRESNO STATE PREDICTED TO WIN MW TITLES: Boise State was predicted to win the 2014 Mountain Division title, while 2013 MW Champion Fresno State was chosen to finish atop the West Division, announced by the Mountain West at its annual Media Days, being held at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. This marks the second season of divisional play for the Conference, which moved to the two, six-team divisional format in 2013 following the additions of San José State and Utah State. The Mountain Division is comprised of Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State and Wyoming, while Fresno State, Hawai‘i, Nevada, San Diego State, San José State and UNLV making up the West Division. The two divisional winners will meet in the MW Championship Game on Dec. 6, 2014 at the home stadium of the divisional champion with the highest College Football Playoff Committee ranking.
MW ANNOUNCES PRESEASON HONORS: The 2014 Preseason All-Mountain West Football Team was announced in July at the league’s annual Media Days, being held at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The team, as selected by members of the media, features 15 student-athletes who were All-MW selections in 2013, including six first-team honorees. The 25-member squad is comprised of 17 seniors, seven juniors and one sophomore. Utah State senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton was named Preseason MW Offensive Player of the Year, while Fresno State senior safety Derron Smith was selected MW Defensive Player of the Year. New Mexico junior return specialist Carlos Wiggins garnered Preseason MW Special Teams Player of the Year honors.