BOWL PREDICTIONS: After the record-setting number of top-25 upsets in Week 6, almost every analyst changed their postseason predictions. Louisiana Tech came out of nowhere to take control as the leading selection from Conference USA. However, Phil Steele is the first to predict that C-USA won’t fill it’s spot, making room for the former Mountain West and Pac-12 member, Utah Utes. For the MW, Air Force and Nevada garner the most bids with four each. It’d be the first appearance in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl for the Falcons and the third for the Wolf Pack. Here is the breakdown of what has been selected for the 2014 bowl game:
Athlon Sports: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MW)
Bleacher Report: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
CampusInsiders.com: UAB (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MW)
CBS Sports/Jerry Palm: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
CFN.Scout.com: UAB (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MW)
College Sports Madness: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
ESPN (Mark Schlabach’s pick): Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MW)
ESPN (Brett McMurphy’ pick): Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Wyoming (MW)
NFL.com/College Football 24/7: North Texas (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
Phil Steele: Utah^ (Pac-12) vs. Utah State (MW)
*SB Nation: UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
Sporting News: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Fresno State (MW)
*Sports Illustrated: UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
*indicates no change from preseason selection ^indicates at-large bid
A PREVIEW OF THINGS TO COME: The Mountain West and Conference USA faced each other four times this season in preparation of the ninth annual Gildan New Mexico Bowl. First, 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 finally played the visitor as New Mexico went to UTSA and Hawai`i visited Rice. The Lobos trailed at the half but scored twice in the third to take the lead as they went on to a 21-9 win. The Warriors and Owls were tied up after three quarters but it was the Owls who scored twice, in the fourth, to secure the 28-14 win.
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.
RECAPPING THE WEEKEND: Week 6 saw 11 top-25 teams fall, including five in the top 10. The Mountain West’s Utah State was one of the team’s surprising the nation, beating No. 18 BYU in Provo for the first time in 37 years. Other top results for the MW were Fresno State improving to 2-0 in league play with a win over San Diego State and Nevada suffering it’s first loss in conference action, falling at home to Boise State. The win put the Broncos back in play in the Mountain race, improving to 2-1. The MW and Conference USA squared off twice as New Mexico went in to the Alamodome and knocked off UTSA while Rice used it’s homefield advantage to best Hawaii. In C-USA games, Marshall dominated Old Dominion to improve to 5-0 overall and Middle Tennessee slipped past Southern Miss to stay undefeated in league play at 3-0. Lousiana Tech maintained it’s control in the West division with a statement win over UTEP. Complete results for the week are:
Conference USA Mountain West
Marshall def. Old Dominion, 56-14 Fresno State def. San Diego State, 24-13
Middle Tennessee def. Southern Miss, 37-31 Utah State def. No. 18 BYU, 35-20
Indiana def. North Texas, 49-24 Colorado State def. Tulsa, 42-17
New Mexico def. UTSA, 21-9 New Mexico def. UTSA, 21-9
Rice def. Hawaii, 28-14 Rice def. Hawaii, 28-14
Louisiana Tech def. UTEP, 55-3 Air Force def. Navy, 30-21
UAB def. Western Kentucky, 42-39 San Jose State def. UNLV, 33-10
FIU def. Florida Atlantic, 38-10 Boise State def. Nevada, 51-46
THIS WEEK’S GAME TO WATCH FOR: Two Mountain West Conference games start week 7 Friday night as New Mexico hosts San Diego State at 7:30 p.m. and UNLV welcomes Fresno State at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. Saturday, the league has three more games, all kicking off after 8 p.m. MT. Two games, Air Force at Utah State and Colorado State at Nevada, air on national television.
For Conference USA, there are four league games and one non-conference contest (Rice at Army). The top two teams in the East Division are undefeated and battle at noon ET on CBS Sports as Middle Tennessee visits Marshall. Florida International also looks to stay perfect in conference action as it heads to the Alamodome for the first time.
Six teams between the two conferences have byes this week. For C-USA, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss and Western Kentucky are off, as are the MW’s Boise State and San Jose State. A complete schedule of this week's games is in the attached PDF.
TALE OF THE TURNSTILES: The attendance numbers are in and Conference USA averaged over 21,000 fans while the Mountain West pulled in just over 32,500 among eight games in week 6. The largest crowd (64,090) came at the home of 18th-ranked BYU, where the Cougars were upset by Utah State (MW). North Texas also played before over 40,457, visiting the Big Ten’s Indiana Hoosiers. The biggest home crowds also came in non-conference games. The Air Force Academy beat Navy in the first test of the year for the Commander In Chief cup, in front of an announced home crowd of 37,731. UTSA fans went home disappointed as New Mexico picked up it’s second win of the season on the road before 30,419 fans. A complete breakdown of each team’s attendance figures is available in the attached PDF.