Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State goes bowling for the first time since 1960

Dr. Saturday
Arkansas defender Kamren Curl tackles New Mexico State receiver <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/264166/" data-ylk="slk:Jaleel Scott">Jaleel Scott</a> in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Arkansas won the game 42-24. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Arkansas defender Kamren Curl tackles New Mexico State receiver Jaleel Scott in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Arkansas won the game 42-24. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
New Mexico State (6-6) vs. Utah State (6-6)
5:30 p.m. ET Dec. 29, Tucson, Arizona (CBS Sports Network)
Utah State -3, O/U 62.5

HOW THEY GOT HERE

New Mexico State: The Aggies last went to a bowl game after the 1960 season. Yeah, it’s been a long strange trip for the college football nomads. 2017 was NMSU’s final season in the Sun Belt Conference and will compete as an independent in 2018. The Aggies were 4-6 after a loss to Louisiana but rallied to beat Idaho and South Alabama to get to .500 and a bowl bid to a game it could travel to. Because of budget issues, the school said it wasn’t sure it could accept a bowl bid to a game that wasn’t nearby.

Utah State: These Aggies aren’t nearly the feel-good story New Mexico State is. Utah State finished fifth out of six teams in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. But that fifth-place finish was a 4-4 record in the conference. Utah State beat New Mexico and Hawaii over the final three weeks of the season to get to six wins. With wins also over Idaho State, San Jose State, BYU and UNLV and losses to Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Colorado State, Wyoming, Boise State and Air Force, Utah State is pretty much the definition of a middle-pack team.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico State: The senior wideout leads the team with 73 catches for 1,043 yards and eight scores. That’s a big jump from 2016 when he totaled 23 catches for 283 yards. Scott has performed well against good competition too. He had eight catches for 149 yards and two scores against Arizona State in Week 1 and nine catches for 174 yards and a score against Arkansas. At 6-6, 215, expect Scott to get a serious look in the NFL.

Utah State quarterback <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/263796/" data-ylk="slk:Jordan Love">Jordan Love</a> searches for a receiver during the first half of an NCAA college football game against New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love searches for a receiver during the first half of an NCAA college football game against New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: The redshirt freshman took over for Kent Myers as Utah State’s starter in the middle of the season. Myers has completed a far higher percentage of his passes (63 percent to 55), but Love has averaged nearly a yard more per attempt. Utah State’s offense is pretty damn balanced too. Both Myers and Love have thrown for over 1,200 yards, seven players have rushed for over 100 yards and 11 players have over 100 yards receiving. No one has rushed for more than 700 yards or has over 500 yards receiving.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

Oh boy, this is a tough one. If you’re a fan of either team, we understand why you’re watching this game. Or if you’re somewhere that has CBS Sports Network but not ESPN, we also understand why you’d watch — though we’re not sure what place would have CBSSN and not ESPN. Other than that, CBS is hoping for an early blowout in the Music City Bowl before everyone’s eyes turn to the Cotton Bowl and USC and Ohio State.

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

This is the first bowl game other than the Sun Bowl for New Mexico State. The school’s previous three bowl appearances all came in El Paso. Utah State’s bowl winless streak is far less severe. The USU version of the Aggies last won the New Mexico Bowl in 2014 before losing the Potato Bowl in 2015.

PREDICTIONS

Nick: New Mexico State 34, Utah State 27
Sam: New Mexico State 31, Utah State 28

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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