Utah State Aggies vs. Texas – El Paso Miners
Saturday – December 20 – 1:20 pm
University Stadium – Albuquerque
How did they get here?
UTEP is making its first bowl game appearance since the 2010 New Mexico Bowl (a 52-24 loss to BYU), while Utah State is making a fourth consecutive bowl appearance, having won its last two. The Aggies seek to get their strong defense back on track after a bitter loss to end their regular season against Boise State. The Miners, on the other hand, are looking to finish their turnaround season (10-26 the last three years) with a victory in Coach Sean Kugler’s second year at the helm.
Prior to the aforementioned loss (50-19) vs. Boise State, the Aggies were allowing just 18.3 points per game (including their season opener at Tennessee) and 116.5 rushing yards per game, as well as less than five yards per play. Their ability to keep teams’ rushing attacks in check has punched their ticket here. I always believe that if you can control the line of scrimmage and keep a team one-dimensional, there is always reason to believe you can win on any given game day. Also, Utah State has averaged a touchdown more on offense per game than they’ve given up, so numbers and recent history do say that they’re in a good spot going into this showdown. Freshman quarterback Kent Myers (their FOURTH QB this season, by the way) has been on a hot streak, completing 69 percent of his passes for a total of just fewer than 800 yards since taking over in late October.
While the Aggies have been stingy against the run, UTEP has given teams fits with their powerful rushing attack (212.7 yards per game, including sophomore Aaron Jones’ 112.1; a classic case of immovable object vs. irresistible force) while averaging just over 28 points in every game this year (mind you, that is both what the offense is scoring and what the defense is giving up). The Miners may not scare anyone with their aerial attack in terms of production, but they’re very adept at taking care of the ball, as quarterback Jameill Showers has thrown only one interception in his last seven games. However, UTEP is also giving up just over 200 yards per game through the air. As stated earlier with the Aggies, the Miners will be looking to control this game in the trenches, using the run move the sticks, control the clock and set up manageable passing situations for Showers.
I feel the strength of Utah State’s defense will be on display enough to carry Myers and keep UTEP’s runners in check. I like the Aggies for the bowl game three-peat. Utah State 28 – UTEP 17