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: Only one prediction (CFN.Scout.com) for the 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl changed from last week’s postseason selections. North Texas, from Conference USA, still garners a majority of the nods from around the nation but UTSA trails by just one. Nevada continues to lead the way for the Mountain West with four bids but Utah State is picking up new nods every week. 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: Western Kentucky (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: Week 4 was not very kind to the Mountain West or Conference USA members as both leagues posted 4-5 records despite averaging over 22 and 33 points per game, respectively.
For the MW, two teams got their first wins of the season as New Mexico slipped by in-state rival New Mexico State (38-35) and Fresno State crushed Southern Utah, 56-16. Boise State improved to 3-1, with a 34-9 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, as did Wyoming, which rallied late in the fourth for a 20-19 win over C-USA’s Florida Atlantic.
Old Dominion announced its presence with authority, knocking off the C-USA’s defending champions on their home field in it’s first game as a league member. The Monarchs improved to 3-1 with the 45-42 win at Rice, which fell to 0-3. Marshall’s offense continued to strut it’s stuff, putting 48 points on the scoreboard to overwhelm Akron, 48-17. But the high scorers of the weekend were the Mean Green of North Texas, who massacred Nicholls State. They led 21-3 after the first, marching on to a 77-3 victory. Complete results for week 4 are available in the attached PDF.
THIS WEEK’S GAME TO WATCH FOR: Friday night league games start the week on national television as the Mountain West’s Fresno State plays at New Mexico (6 p.m. MT) on ESPN2 and Conference USA’s Middle Tennessee visits Old Dominion on Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET. It’s the first meeting for the Blue Raiders and Monarchs, who are both 1-0 in C-USA play. It’s also the first Friday night game at Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Va. but is expected to sell out, like the previous 37 home games.
There are three more conference games for each league on Saturday, beginning with C-USA’s FIU at UAB. It’s the first time this season the Panthers are on the road after playing four straight home games to start the season. UTSA returns from a bye to take on Florida Atlantic for the first time and Rice looks for it’s first win of 2014 at Southern Miss. For the MW, the three league games close out the night as Boise State looks to remain perfect (2-0) in it’s series with Air Force. UNLV aims to win it’s second straight against San Diego State but has an uphill battle, having lost six straight at Qualcomm. Finally, Nevada returns from a bye week at San Jose State.
Three teams take on top-25 teams this Saturday, starting with Wyoming at No. 9/9 Michigan State at Noon ET on ESPN2. UTEP plays at the same time, taking on No. 25/25 Kansas State. Louisiana Tech is back on the road, playing at No. 5/5 Auburn for the 13th time and still looking for win No. 1 in the series (11-0-1).
COACH TO CURE: For the sixth consecutive year, several collegiate football coaches will display their support of the Coach To Cure MD program, which will be held during games September 25-27. The annual effort has raised more than one million dollars to battle Duchenne muscular dystrophy. American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) members will wear a Coach To Cure MD logo patch on the sidelines and college football fans will be asked to donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD), the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. focused entirely on Duchenne muscular dystrophy. More than 60 of those games will recognize a local Duchenne family on the field before or during the game. Football fans can donate to Duchenne muscular dystrophy research by either going on-line to www.CoachtoCureMD.org or by texting the word CURE to 90999 (a $5 donation will automatically be added to your next phone bill).
TALE OF THE TURNSTILES: The attendance numbers are in and the Mountain West averaged over 32,500 fans among nine non-conference games. Conference USA averaged just over 22,000 eight match ups, including one conference contest in week 4. The largest crowd (47,739) came at the Big Ten’s Minnesota-San Jose State game in Minneapolis. Middle Tennessee also played before over 46,000, visiting Memphis. The biggest home crowds came in Boise, Idaho where the Broncos ran past Louisiana-Lafayette, 34-9, in front of 33,337. Louisiana Tech played on it’s home turf for the first time in 2014, welcoming over 26,000. 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.
Saturday, C-USA’s Florida Atlantic visited Wyoming in Laramie for the first time. Trailing 19-17 and taking possession with two minutes left after the Cowboys defense forced a turnover deep in their own territory, Wyoming’s Colby Kirkegaard connected with Dominic Rufran on a crossing route that turned into an 88-yard play. Stuart Williams then kicked an 18-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining to lift Wyoming to a 20-19 victory over Florida Atlantic.
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 - Wyoming (MW) def. Florida Atlantic (C-USA), 20-19
Week 6 - New Mexico (MW) at UTSA (C-USA); Hawai`i (MW) at Rice (C-USA)