LAST CHANCE 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 this Friday, 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: Will Nevada be the first team to make it’s third appearance in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl? This week’s postseason selections has the Wolf Pack as the clear favorites from the Mountain West, garnering seven of the 13 predictions. UTSA surpassed North Texas, from Conference USA, after weeks of trailing the Mean Green by just a vote or two. The Roadrunners picked up four nods as more league members, like Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee, earned bids for the first time this season. Here is the breakdown of what has been selected for the 2014 bowl game:
Athlon Sports: UTSA (C-USA) vs. Wyoming (MW)
Bleacher Report: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Nevada (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)
College Sports Madness: UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
ESPN (Mark Schlabach’s pick): Middle Tennessee (C-USA) vs. Wyoming (MW)
ESPN (Brett McMurphy’ pick): Western Kentucky (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)
Sporting News: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
*Sports Illustrated: UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
*indicates no change from preseason selection
RECAPPING THE WEEKEND: Week 5 was a mix of league and non conference games for the Mountain West and Conference USA. In non conference action, the MW was 1-1 as Colorado State upset Boston College (24-21) in Chesnut Hill while Wyoming was overwhelmed by ninth-ranked Michigan State, 56-14. C-USA saw UTEP and Louisiana Tech fall at top-25 opponents (No. 25 Kansas State and No. 5 Auburn, respectively) while Western Kentucky got past Navy in Annapolis, 36-27.
In league play, it paid to be on the road for C-USA as three home teams lost by multiple touchdowns. In the Mountain West, Air Force picked up it’s first win in the series against Boise State. Complete results for week 4 are:
Conference USA Mountain West
Middle Tennessee def. Old Dominion, 41-28 Fresno State def. New Mexico, 35-24
#25/25 Kansas State def. UTEP, 58-28 #9/9 Michigan State def. Wyoming, 56-14
FIU def. UAB, 34-20 Colorado State def. Boston College, 24-21
WKU def. Navy, 36-27 Air Force def. Boise State, 28-14
#5/5 Auburn def. Louisiana Tech, 45-17 San Diego State def. UNLV, 34-17
Florida Atlantic def. UTSA, 41-37 Nevada def. San Jose State, 21-10
Rice def. Southern Miss, 41-23
THIS WEEK’S GAME TO WATCH FOR: The annual Shula Bowl battle kicks off action on Thursday night as Florida Atlantic takes on Florida International. The game will air on Fox Sports Net at 7 p.m. ET. The following night, the Mountain West has two national tv games. San Diego State and Fresno State kick off on CBSSN at 7 p.m. PT while Utah State takes on in-state rival BYU, which is ranked No. 18/19, a 8:15 p.m. MT on ESPN.
Conference USA has four league games while the MW has two on Saturday. Marshall puts it’s perfect 4-0 record on the line at Old Dominion while Middle Tennessee looks to remain in control of the East Division and move to 3-0, hosting Southern Miss. San Jose State aims to bounce back from last week’s loss, taking on UNLV in a series the Spartans have dominated. Boise State also hopes to rebound from a league loss last week, traveling to Nevada for a 7:30 p.m. PT game on CBS Sports Network to close out the evening.
The two conference face off as UTSA hosts New Mexico and Rice welcomes Hawai`i to the mainland. The Roadrunners and Lobos have met just once before, when UTSA outlasted UNM, 21-13 in Albuquerque. The Owls hold a 4-2 series advantage over the Warriors but the two have not met since 2004.
TALE OF THE TURNSTILES: The attendance numbers are in and Conference USA averaged over 35,000 fans while the Mountain West averaged just over 33,500 in week 5. The largest crowd (87,451) came at the SEC’s Auburn-Louisiana Tech game. Wyoming also played before over 74,000, visiting the Big Ten’s ninth-ranked Michigan State. The biggest home crowds came in league games. The Air Force Academy beat Boise State for the first time, in front of an announced home crowd of 30,012. Southern Miss fans went home disappointed as Rice picked up it’s first win of the season on the road before 24,756 fans. 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, Sept. 20, 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)