This year the New Mexico Bowl will feature the North Texas Mean Green from Conference USA and the Utah State Aggies from the Mountain West Conference. This match-up should pan out to be an exciting one. Both teams finished in second in their respective divisions and faced stout competition all year. Their bowl appearances are both deserving and expected. They easily outperformed the majority of their opponents all year. Overall, the teams are evenly matched and should produce a competitive matchup.
New Mexico Bowl Preview
The Mean Green finished the year with an overall record of nine wins and three losses. The team had all three of their losses in conference play, however. North Texas ranked in the top 25 in points per game, averaging 36.4 and were an offensive force all year. As for their defense, they gave up an average of 21.8 points per game which ranked them in the top 35 in the nation. For the season, the team’s point differential was +175 and they were able to control games from the start all season. Their combined play in the passing and rushing attack helped make them one of the fiercest offenses in the nation.
For the year, North Texas never lost by more than eight and were efficient in all aspects of the game. The teams largest win came in the second week of the season. They matched up against Incarnate Word and beat them 58-16. This 42-point spread was their largest of the year. However, North Texas had one other 40-point victory this season. They also had four games in which they beat their opponents by at least three touchdowns. This explosive offense and tough defensive will surely cause some issues for the Aggies.
The Aggies had an even more impressive season as they capped the year with an overall record of 10 wins and two losses. One of their losses came at the hands of the 25th ranked Boise State Broncos in a game that was decided by fewer than 10 points. The other came at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans in the first game of the year in which they only lost by one touchdown. This year’s team ranked in the top three in points/game with 47.2 per game. They also ranked in the top 40 of division one teams for opponents’ points/game only giving up 23 per game. Their point differential was +290 for the year which proves why they were so dominant in the Mountain Division of the MWC.
The Aggies are clearly one of the most dominant teams in their division. They put up 60 points or more three times. Also, they only had less than 40 points in a game four times. Utah State also scored 73 points in a 61-point victory against Tennessee Tech earlier in the season. The Aggies have some great playmakers for their team. The system that these players have been put in allows them to thrive in most games. The coaches have set this team up for success the entire year and are adept at game planning and fitting the right scheme into each game.
The match-up between the two teams will likely be a high scoring affair. Although both defenses rank in the top 40 in efficiency, their powerhouse offenses will surely be showcased. The two quarterbacks are going to be the stars of the game. Whichever one performs at a higher level, will be the team that will come out on top. North Texas quarterback Mason Fine has been electric all year. He has completed 64.6% of his passes for 3734 passing yards and 27 touchdowns and is averaging a passer rating of 150.5. Fine is deliberate and precise with his passes as he has only thrown five picks this year.
On the opposing sideline, quarterback Jordan Love will look to continue his stellar performance from this year. For the season, Love has completed 65.8% of his passes for 3208 yards and 28 touchdowns with an average passer rating of 159.9. The Utah State quarterback has also only thrown five interceptions this year.
The quarterback that stays most consistent will ultimately win the game for their respective team. Each squad has relied on their high-scoring, fast-paced offense to win ball games, so expect each team to test the other through the air often.
One Key Factor
One thing to look into before the start of this game is going to be the health of North Texas star wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. He has been the number one receiving option for Mason Fine all year. His status come game time is crucial to the success of the North Texas offense. He is currently listed as questionable for Saturday’s bowl game with an apparent leg injury. Whether or not Bussey plays will determine how Utah State game plans for North Texas. However, the team must scout as if he will play so that they are not caught flat-footed if he makes an appearance.
This bowl game will kick off this wild and highly anticipated bowl season. This year has been marked by many story lines and wild games. Now, the college football nation is ready to crown some champions. A game like the one between North Texas and Utah State will set the mood for the entire bowl season and cause some excitement as we head into the best time of the year.