THIS WEEK’S GAMES TO WATCH FOR: Conference USA begins league play with the two teams selected by the media to be division champions as Louisiana Tech visits WKU Thursday night at 7 p.m. CT on Fox Sports 1. The Bulldogs won last year’s meeting in Ruston, holding the Hilltoppers to a season-low 10 points in a 59-10 triumph. That was the last time WKU lost a game, as the Toppers carry a six-game winning streak into its home opener.
Friday night, C-USA’s lone team in action is Florida Atlantic. The Owls host Miami (FL) at 8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT on Fox Sports 1. The long-running series of Utah vs. Utah State resumes Friday night as the programs battle at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake at 7 p.m. MT on ESPN2. A win for the Aggies would make them 2-0 for the first time since 2012 but it won’t be easy as the Utes have won 32 consecutive home games.
Conference USA has five games against the autonomous 5 on Saturday, including one against No. 2 Alabama as Middle Tennessee looks to face its second 100,000-plus crowd for the first time since 2002 at Tennessee. The other big games for the league include UTSA vs. Kansas State, UTEP at Texas Tech, Rice at Texas and FIU at Indiana.
The Mountain West also begins league play as San Jose State visits Air Force on Saturday night. These two programs haven’t met since both were Western Athletic Conference members in 1997. Neither team has had much luck in their league-opening games as AFA has lost four straight while SJSU has lost both since joining the MW in 2012. The MW also has six games against the autonomous 5, including four against the nation’s top-25. Hawai`i kicks things off at No. 1 Ohio State, looking for its second road win against a ranked foe since topping Washington in 1973. Colorado State hosts Minnesota, hunting for its first win over an autonomous 5 school since beating Louisville in 2002. Fresno State faces an uphill battle at No. 17/14 Ole Miss, having lost 19 straight against a top-25 team and is 0-5 against the SEC. San Diego State aims for its first win against an autonomous 5 program since 1999, heading north to take on California. Nevada is searching for its first win against a top-25 team as it hosts No. 22/20 Arizona but the Wildcats have not lost a non-conference regular season game (10-0) under head coach Rich Rodriguez. Lastly, 13th-ranked UCLA invades UNLV as the highest ranked team since No. 5 Boise State in 2011. The Rebels have lost 16 straight against ranked teams. For a complete schedule with series notes, see page 1.
RECAPPING WEEK 1: It was an amazing start to the season for both Conference USA and the Mountain West. C-USA, blostered by a 6-1 mark in by the East Division, finished with an 8-4 record, the conference’s best opening weekend record since 2009. C-USA posted victories against five of the six FBS conferences it faced, defeating a Big Ten team (Purdue), an SEC team (Vanderbilt) and the defending American Athletic Conference champions (UCF), among others. Charlotte beat Georgia State, 23-20, in Atlanta on Friday in its first-ever game at the FBS level and its first-ever game against an FBS opponent. The 49ers are playing their first season in Conference USA in just their third campaign as a program. Following the win, the game ball was presented to Haley Ratliff, daughter of Offensive Line coach Phil Ratliff who passed away on Aug. 9.
The Mountain West went 10-2 over the opening weekend, which was the second-best win percentage among the 10 FBS conferences. The league was 2-0 against the Pac-12 as Hawai`i beat Colorado and Boise State topped Washington and former head coach Chris Petersen. Complete C-USA and MW results for week 1 are available in the attached PDF.
NEW MEXICO’S TRUE HEROES: After a highly successful inaugural program in 2014, the State of New Mexico, along with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, is searching for the next round of New Mexico True Heroes - New Mexicans who make their communities a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
The New Mexico True Heroes Program is online now at NewMexico.org/TrueHeroes. The nomination form asks two key questions: “What makes this person a New Mexico True Hero?” and “How have the nominee’s efforts made a difference in his or her community?”
The 2014 New Mexico True Heroes included: John Masterson (Roswell) for his bravery in ceasing a school shooting at Berrendo Middle School, Jan DeMaggio (Albuquerque) for her creation of dream bedrooms for children with life-threatening illnesses, Chuck Howe (Angel Fire) for his work in aiding veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Jim Stogsdill (Albuquerque) for the advocacy and protection he and his group provide for children in abusive or intimidating situations.
Nominations remain open through Friday, October 9. 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. The honorees will take part in a series of community events in their hometowns and get special recognition during the festivities surrounding the 2015 Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Saturday, December 19.
A PREVIEW OF THINGS TO COME: The Mountain West and Conference USA face each other just once this season in preparation of the tenth annual Gildan New Mexico Bowl as UTSA hosts Colorado State in the Alamodome on Saturday, September 26 at 6 p.m. CT/5 p.m. MT. It is the fewest meetings of conferences pitted to play in the Albuquerque-based bowl game in it’s 10-year history. The MW has won two straight Gildan New Mexico Bowls and both contests (2010 and 2014) against Conference USA.
2015 GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL: The 10th-annual Gildan New Mexico Bowl will kick off on the FBS Bowl season opening day, Saturday, Dec. 19 at Noon MT/2 p.m. ET, announced the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. The game will be played at University Stadium in Albuquerque, and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and ESPN Radio. The Gildan New Mexico Bowl has ignited the collegiate bowl postseason before, playing on opening day since 2008.
The Gildan New Mexico Bowl is partnered with the Mountain West and Conference USA, provided the league produces enough bowl-eligible teams. The Mountain West representative is scheduled to be the home team this year. The league has won two straight bowl games in Albuquerque.
NEW MEXICO BOWL CONNECTIONS: There are currently 49 former collegiate athletes who played in at least one of the previous New Mexico Bowls and is listed as active, practice squad or injured reserve among 25 of the 32 NFL teams. The Denver Broncos boast the most reps (6), followed closely by the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, which have five alumni. From the universities standpoint, Nevada has produced the most active alum with nine (9). Fresno State and Colorado State are second with seven (7), apiece. Four, B.J. Larsen and Zach Vigil from Utah State and UTEP’s Jameill Showers and Eric Tomlinson, participated in last year’s game. All-time, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl has had 126 alumni listed on an NFL roster. A complete list of the active athletes is available in the attached PDF.