Are you ready for some bowl games? Our brief December hiatus comes to an end Saturday with four games, the second of which comes at 2:20 p.m. ET when Utah State and UTEP square off in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What should we expect from these teams, what do they bring to the table and what should we watch for? Let’s take a glance:
What's at stake: Utah State (9-4) is in a bowl for the fourth consecutive season and is looking for its third consecutive bowl victory. The four straight appearances is a school record for the Aggies and a win would secure a 10-win season for only the second time in school history. UTEP hopes to put a bow on a nice turnaround season in El Paso, Texas, as the Miners (7-5) are vastly improved after managing only two wins in 2013 and are enjoying their first winning season since 2005. The Miners' five-win improvement is fifth best in the FBS.
Players to watch: UTEP sophomore running back Aaron Jones has 1,233 rushing yards this season, averaging 112.1 per game (fourth in Conference USA and 23rd in the country). He has 14 total touchdowns and 1,517 all-purpose yards, which puts him ninth in school history. Utah State senior linebacker Zach Vigil leads the Mountain West in tackles for loss per game (1.5) and is ninth nationally in tackles per game (11.2). He needs just one half of a tackle for loss to match the school's career record for tackles for loss (43).
Strength versus strength: As is evident from Jones' numbers, UTEP runs the ball well. The Miners are 32nd in the country in rushing yards per game offensively, posting 212.7 yards per game. Utah State's rushing defense is strong, as the Aggies rank 26th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (129.3). Whichever unit wins this battle will be key to deciding the game's winner.
Notable: Utah State has seen season-ending injuries occur to three of its quarterbacks: senior Chuckie Keeton (knee), senior Craig Harrison (knee) and sophomore Darell Garretson (wrist). The current starter, true freshman Kent Myers, is the fourth quarterback to start for Utah State, and the Aggies are 4-1 with him at the helm.
They'll look good: Utah State will have nice, clean-looking white jerseys with blue trim, while UTEP will go bold with the orange and blue combination (with orange helmets to boot). If nothing else, the teams will run up and down the field in some nice threads.
Uniforms for Utah State and UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. Miners' look = sharp. pic.twitter.com/diMJSK8MaD
— Sean Walker (@DSeanKSL) December 10, 2014