After a couple week hiatus, college football and the Fringe are back for bowl season, with short and straightforward looks at the non-BCS bowl teams and how they got to where they are. Things kick off at 2 PM Eastern today with BYU facing UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl, played in Albuquerque. The game is outside, where the high temperature should be in the mid 40s, with a chance of snow early and rain late.
BYU comes in 6-6, 5-3 in the Mountain West, after a 2-4 start that included a bad loss to rival Utah State. Things turned around at midseason, and the Cougars nearly upset flailing Utah in the final week of the year. This is their first trip to a bowl other than Las Vegas in years.
Except for the 17-16 Utah loss, the BYU offense has been clicking down the stretch, putting up 55, 49, and 40 in the three games prior. Including the Utah game, they allowed just 10 points per game in November.
UTEP arrives after some horse trading landed this bowl for them and Conference USA, since the school is about 4 hours from the bowl site, much closer than the rest of the league’s options. UTEP started the year 5-1, feasting on weaker opponents early before getting knocked around by the better teams in C-USA, where they finished 3-5, 6-6 overall.
The Miners haven’t played since November 20, when their regular season ended with a loss to Tulsa. The lone bright spot near the end was knocking off eventual division winner SMU, but otherwise UTEP has lost a handful of close games to close things out. They’re a balanced team, with middle rankings on the ground and in the air, and senior QB Trevor Vittatoe can be lights out when he’s playing well.
BYU comes in with the momentum and probably better talent too, and should have their way with UTEP, but it may not be so simple. The Miners will have to play their best game, and at least at the beginning of the year, BYU showed that you could throw them off by scoring on them early. The line is BYU by 11.5, but I think that UTEP can keep it closer and could steal the win in this one, but they’ll have to get it done early since they haven’t shown an ability to close games. BYU 30-20.