BOWL PREDICTIONS: After mostly conference games in Week 7, there are a few new analyst predictions for the 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Two correspondents are seeing the Rice Owls coming out of Conference USA and Wyoming garnered it’s first nod as the Mountain West rep. Louisiana Tech is still the leading selection from C-USA and Utah State is the overwhelming favorite from the MW with eight of the 13 predictions. Phil Steele still thinks that C-USA won’t fill it’s spot, making room for the former Mountain West and Pac-12 member, Utah Utes. Here is the breakdown of what has been selected for the 2014 bowl game:
Athlon Sports: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Utah State (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: Marshall (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
College Sports Madness: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
ESPN (Mark Schlabach’s pick): Rice (C-USA) vs. Wyoming (MW)
ESPN (Brett McMurphy’ pick): Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Utah State (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: Rice (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
Sporting News: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
*Sports Illustrated: UTSA (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
*indicates no change from preseason selection ^indicates at-large bid
POSTSEASON PREVIEW: Six teams were the first to become eligible for the postseason over the weekend as Notre Dame (Independent), Ole Miss (SEC), Mississippi State (SEC), Marshall (C-USA), Baylor (Big 12) and Florida State (ACC) all moved to 6-0. Four teams are already ineligible: Appalachian State (Sun Belt), Georgia Southern (Sun Belt) and Old Dominion (C-USA) are all transitioning to the FBS while Idaho (Sun Belt) is eliminated due to NCAA probation.
For our aligned leagues, Conference USA has 13 teams and five bowl commitments while the Mountain West has 12 teams and 6 commitments. Both leagues also have one game where they are slated as a back-up. Conference USA already has one team (Marshall) eligible for a bowl while Colorado State could be the first MW team with a win this weekend against Utah State. Two teams (Middle Tennessee and UAB) from C-USA and three teams (Air Force, Boise State and Utah State) from the MW need two more wins to be eligible.
RECAPPING THE WEEKEND: Action started off on Friday night for the Mountain West conference with two league games on national television. San Diego State and head coach Rocky Long were able to hold off Long’s former team, the New Mexico Lobos, in Albuquerque while UNLV was able to hang on at home and hand Fresno State it’s first conference loss of the season. Saturday, the league had three more conference games as Utah State, Colorado State and Hawaii picked up wins. It was the first MW game of the season for both the Aggies and Warriors, setting them atop their respective divisions. All five games were competitive with the victor winning by an average of just 9 points.
Conference USA had just four league games on Saturday as Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss and Western Kentucky rested on byes. Marshall grabbed sole possession of the East Division with a win over Middle Tennessee. UTEP and UTSA picked up their first C-USA victories of the season while UAB earned it’s second league win as it handed North Texas it’s second straight loss. The league continues to score big with it’s victors averaging 41 points per game in week 7. Also, on average the winners outscored their opponents by 18 points per game. Complete results for the week are:
Conference USA Mountain West
Marshall def. Middle Tennessee, 49-24 San Diego State def. New Mexico, 24-14
Rice def. Army, 41-21 UNLV def. Fresno State, 30-27 (OT)
UAB def. North Texas, 56-21 Utah State def. Air Force, 34-16
UTSA def. FIU, 16-13 Colorado State def. Nevada, 31-24
UTEP def. Old Dominion, 42-35 Hawaii def. Wyoming, 38-28
THIS WEEK’S GAMES TO WATCH FOR: There are a lot of great match-ups this week and it all begins Friday night at 6 p.m. MT on ESPN as Boise State hosts Fresno State in a battle that will keep the winner in the running for the Mountain West title. The Broncos own the series (11-5) but last year the Bulldogs pulled off the one-point win (41-40) at home. Saturday, the Mountain West has four more league games and one non-conference game as Nevada heads to BYU and UNLV sits with a bye. For Conference USA, there are five league games while Rice, UTEP and Old Dominion are off. In the East Division, newly-ranked Marshall (No. 24/25) looks to stay in control but FIU could take over with a win. Middle Tennesse and UAB also battle in the East and the winner will stay in the hunt for division control. In the West, Louisiana Tech aims to build on it’s lead, hosting UTSA. For a complete schedule with series notes, see page 1 of the attached PDF.
TALE OF THE TURNSTILES: The attendance numbers are in and Conference USA averaged over 27,600 fans while the Mountain West pulled in just over 21,000 among five games in week 7. The largest crowd (37,011) came at the home of Army in West Point, N.Y., where the Rice Owls (C-USA) cruised to a 20-point non-conference win. The biggest crowd in the MW came in a league game as Hawaii announced a crowd of 24,273 for it’s first MW game of the season. C-USA’s most attended home game was the division battle of unbeatens in Middle Tennessee at Marshall. The 30,210 Herd fans went home happy as Marshall blew out the Blue Raiders. A complete breakdown of each team’s attendance figures is available in the attached PDF.