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 the unprecidented announcement by the NCAA lifting the bowl ban on Penn State, most predictors hit the boards to make changes to their postseason projections. However, the shake up didn’t seem to affect the predictions for the 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl as all but two, ESPN’s Mark Schlaback and Brett McMurphy, stayed with their preseason selections. North Texas, from Conference USA, still garners a majority of the nods from around the nation but UTSA and Rice are gaining ground. Nevada continues to lead the way for the Mountain West with five bids. However, Utah State picked up two new selections this week, bringing its total to 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): Rice (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
ESPN (Brett McMurphy’ pick): UTSA (C-USA) vs. Utah 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)
*indicates no change from preseason selection
RECAPPING THE WEEKEND: Week 2 was tough for both Conference USA and the Mountain West as its members went 5-7 against some of the best teams in the nation, including four top-25 teams. C-USA’s UTSA saw it’s six-game win streak come to an end as the Roadrunners fell short of upsetting the Pac-12’s Arizona, 26-23, on national TV Thursday night. The league’s UTEP Miners also narrowly missed shocking in-state, Big 12 rival Texas Tech on Saturday night, falling 30-26. As a whole, the conference’s members continued to score big, averaging 31 points per game, led by Louisiana Tech and Marshall’s 48 points.
The MW kicked off league play with Wyoming downing Air Force (17-13) and Boise State besting Colorado State (37-24). Nevada stunned the Pac-12’s Washington State Cougars in Reno, 24-13, improving to 2-0. San Diego State nearly upset No. 21/23 North Carolina in Chapel Hill but fell, 31-27 on an interception in the endzone with under a minute remaining. Hawai`i also narrowly missed pulling off an upset of the Pac-12’s Oregon State as they scored 23 in the fourth quarter but the Beavers held on for a 38-30 win in Honolulu.
THIS WEEK’S GAME TO WATCH FOR: Week 3 kicks off Thursday night with a Conference USA league game. North Texas hosts Louisiana Tech in the 13th meeting of the series, which is tied at 6. Saturday, a rematch of the 2012 Gildan New Mexico Bowl takes place in Tucson as Arizona hosts Nevada on the Pac-12 network at 8 p.m. PT. It’s the first time these two face off since the stunning finish of the 2012 bowl game when the Wildcats rallied from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter for a one point win (49-48). There are eight games between the two conferences pitting programs against each other for the first time, including Boise State at Connecticut, Wake Forest at Utah State and Wyoming at No. 4/2 Oregon. C-USA’s Rice returns to the field after a bye week with the red-hot Aggies of No. 7/8 Texas A&M. The 82nd contest between these two Lone Star State schools will air on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. CT. The MW has four teams with a bye this week in Hawai`i, New Mexico, San Diego State and San Jose State.
TALE OF THE TURNSTILES: The attendance numbers are in and C-USA averaged over 39,000 fans per contest in week 2 while the MW averaged just over 36,500. For the MW, San Jose State played in front of the biggest crowd (87,451) as the Spartans visited No. 5 Auburn. Florida Atlantic faced the most fans (100,306) for C-USA as the Owls took on their second straight top-25 opponent (Nebraska and Alabama, respectively). The largest home crowds came in El Paso, Texas, as the Minors welcomed 35,422 in their first home game of the season, and in Boise, Idaho, where Boise State seated almost 35,000 for a league game against the Colorado State Rams. 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: 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 NFL 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.