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: The predictions for the 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl are starting to change from the preseason selections made a month ago. North Texas, from Conference USA, still garners a majority of the nods from around the nation but UTSA is gaining ground. Nevada continues to lead the way for the Mountain West with four 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. Fresno State (MW)
ESPN (Mark Schlabach’s pick): UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
ESPN (Brett McMurphy’ pick): UTSA (C-USA) vs. Wyoming (MW)
*NFL.com/College Football 24/7: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
Phil Steele: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
*SB Nation: UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
*indicates no change from preseason selection
RECAPPING THE WEEKEND: Both Conference USA (7-6) and the Mountain West (5-4) posted winning records in Week 3. In league action, Louisiana Tech stunned North Texas in Denton, 42-21 while Middle Tennessee needed three overtimes to get by Western Kentucky, 50-47. The Hilltoppers’ Brandon Doughty posted a career-best 593 yards on 43-66 passing despite the loss. Marshall remained the league’s lone unbeaten team with a thunderous 44-14 win over Ohio. Southern Mississippi and Rice put numbers on the scoreboard as they took on top-10 teams from the SEC in No. 3 Alabama and No. 7 Texas A&M but not enough, falling 52-12 and 38-10, respectively.
For the MW, Boise State upset the American Athletic Conference’s UConn in Connecticut, 38-21, thanks to two uncontested touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Utah State topped the ACC’s Wake Forest in Utah, 36-24 with a strong defensive game, recording two TDs on first half turnovers and holding the Demon Deacons to -25 yards rushing for the game. Colorado State’s Garrett Gayson led the Rams to a 49-21 victory over UC Davis with four touchdowns in the first half and over 400 yards passing for the game. The league had two games (Wyoming at No. 2 Oregon and Nevada at Arizona) against Pac-12 members while Fresno State hosted the Big Ten’s Nebraska. The Cowboys held the Ducks scoreless in the first quarter, leading 7-0 before Heisman-hopeful, Marcus Mariota led them back to a 48-14 win. The Bulldogs tallied points in every quarter but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Huskers cruised back into the nation’s top-25 rankings on a 55-19 victory. The game in Tucson, a rematch of the 2012 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, was close but again, the Wildcats came out on top, 35-28. The Wolf Pack’s Cody Fajardo again posted impressive numbers against Arizona, hurling three touchdowns and 321 yards but two second half UofA touchdowns broke the 21-21 tie, leading to their 35-28 win.
THIS WEEK’S GAME TO WATCH FOR: All action for the Mountain West and Conference USA is on Saturday this weekend. The MW has three games on the road against FBS powerhouses as Hawai`i heads to Colorado (Pac-12), San Diego State invades Oregon State (Pac-12) and San Jose State travels to Minnesota (Big Ten). The Warriors and Spartans look to even their respective series, which both are currently 1-2 while the Aztecs aim to take control of the 2-2 tie and avenge last year’s 34-30 loss at home. Also for the league, New Mexico takes on in-state rival New Mexico State for the 106th time after a bye last week while Air Force, Colorado State and Nevada all have off this weekend. The night closes for the MW with Boise State hosting Louisiana-Lafayette for the first time on CBS Sports Network at 8:30 p.m. MT.
Conference USA’s day begins with a league game as Rice hosts Old Dominion. It is the Monarchs’ first C-USA game and it will be a tough one since the Owls are the defending conference champions. FIU rounds out a season-opening four-game homestand with it’s second straight ACC opponent in Louisville. Louisiana Tech closes out the night for C-USA with it’s first home game of the season after playing three road games in 13 days. The Bulldogs take on Northwestern State for the 78th time in series history but it’s the first meeting in 20 years.
TALE OF THE TURNSTILES: The attendance numbers are in and C-USA averaged over 40,000 fans among 11 games, including two conference contests in week 3. The MW averaged just over 30,400 in nine non-conference match ups. For C-USA, Rice played in front of the biggest crowd (103,867) as the Owls visited No. 7 Texas A&M. Wyoming faced the most fans (56,533) for the MW as the Cowboys took on No. 2 Oregon in Eugene. The largest home crowds came in El Paso, Texas, for the second straight week as the Miners welcomed 32,979 for their I-10 rivalry game with New Mexico State. In their first home game of the season, Fresno State seated over 41,000 for a showdown with Nebraska. 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.
Saturday, 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)