ONE MONTH LEFT TO 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.
BOWL PREDICTIONS: After week 1, most predictors stayed with their preseason selections. North Texas, from Conference USA, still garners a majority of the nods from around the nation but UTSA is gaining ground. Five different teams from the Mountain West are projected with Nevada leading the way with five bids. 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): UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (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)
RECAPPING THE WEEKEND: The opening weekend was a success for our partner conferences as Conference USA tallied seven wins and the Mountain West nabbed six. Arguably the biggest win of the weekend was Colorado State’s (MW) 31-17 victory over the Pac-12’s Colorado in Denver. Other MW winners were Wyoming, San Diego State, Air Force, Nevada and North Dakota, which all faced FCS programs. Hawai`i almost upset then-No. 25 ranked Washington, falling 17-16, but knocking the Huskies out of the polls. Western Kentucky, UTSA, UAB, Marshall, Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee and UTEP were all victorious for C-USA, outscoring their opponents by an average of 25.5-19.1.
THIS WEEK’S GAME TO WATCH FOR: Thursday night Conference USA’s UTSA takes the national stage, playing host to the Pac-12’s Arizona Wildcats on Fox Sports 1. These two teams met for the first time last year in Tucson, where Arizona won by three touchdowns. Friday night is the Mountain West’s turn as Nevada welcomes the Pac-12’s Washington State Cougars. The Wolfpack, who collapsed at the end of the 2012 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, and the Cougars, who fell in last year’s game, will play on ESPN at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.
Saturday, four MW teams begin league play as Air Force travels to Wyoming and Colorado State invades Boise. Both games kick off at 8:15 MT, airing on ESPNU and ESPN2, respectively. There are four match-ups against top-25 teams as Florida Atlantic plays at No. 2/2 Alabama, San Jose State is at No. 5/5 Auburn, New Mexico hosts No. 17/16 Arizona State, and San Diego State heads to No. 22/23 North Carolina. Five gridiron matches, Old Dominion vs. North Carolina State, Wagner vs. FIU, San Jose State vs. Auburn, Rhode Island vs. Marshall, and Western Kentucky vs. Illinois, are all first-time meetings.
TALE OF THE TURNSTILES: The heads have been counted and there were a lot of them at MW and C-USA games in week 1. For the MW, Utah State played in front of the biggest crowd (102,455) as the Aggies took on Tennessee. North Texas faced the most fans (93,201) for C-USA as the Mean Green took on Texas in Austin. The largest home crowds came in Honolulu, Hawai`i, as the Warriors welcomed over 36,000, and in Birmingham, Ala., where UAB seated over 27,000. A complete breakdown of each team’s attendance figures 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 opened the season with a battle in Albuquerque on Saturday, Aug. 30. The Lobos battled back after a double-digit halftime deficit to tie the game with just over 8 minutes remaining in the fourth. But it wasn’t enough as the Miners capitalized on a UNM fumble with 2 minutes remaining for the 31-24 victory.
In two weeks (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) def. New Mexico (MW), 31-24
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 Wednesday, Sept. 3, there are currently 48 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 (6), followed closely by the Detroit Lions, which have four alumni. From the universities standpoint, Fresno State has produced the most active alum with 10. Nevada is second with nine and Temple is third with six. 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.