It’s an Aggies vs. Aggies showdown in Tucson, when old conference rivals meet.
Utah State and New Mexico State are former rivals from their days in the Big West Conference, Sun Belt, and the now defunct Western Athletic Conference. These teams met when New Mexico State last appeared in a bowl – the 1960 Sun Bowl – when the Aggies defeated Utah State, 20-13.
NMSU going bowling for first time since 1960
The New Mexico State Aggies are one of the feel-good stories of college football this season. Sitting at 4-6 with two games remaining, NMSU won its final two games, beating Idaho and South Alabama to finish the regular season .500. Due to budget issues, the Aggies had to accept a bid to a bowl close enough to travel to, but they’ll take anything they can get after a 57-year bowl drought.
2017 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Utah State (6-6, 4-4 MW) vs. New Mexico State (6-6, 4-4 SB)
Time: 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Date: Friday, December 29, 2017
NMSU has the fourth ranked passing offense in the nation – gaining 352.6 yards per game through the air. The offense is led by quarterback Tyler Rogers, who threw for 3,825 yards and 26 touchdowns. His favorite target, all-conference wide receiver Jaleel Scott, has caught 73 passes for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Aggies defense forced 20 turnovers during the regular season, tops in the Sun Belt Conference, but still allows nearly 31 points per game defensively.
Utah State makes another bowl game
Utah State is making their sixth bowl appearance in seven years, continuing the best run in school history after missing a bowl last season. This is the 12th bowl game all-time for USU, looking for their first bowl win since 2014 (New Mexico Bowl).
Utah State’s defense finished second in the Mountain West and tied for ninth nationally in turnovers, forcing 26 (15 fumbles, 11 interceptions). The Aggies allowed just 181.8 passing yards per game, ranking 17th in the country. The secondary is led by cornerback Jalen Davis, who picked off five passes during the season, returning three for touchdowns. Following the regular season, Davis was named a Walter Camp 1st Team All-American and a 2nd Team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and the Associated Press.
Utah State’s offense was prolific in its six wins against sup par competition, averaging 44.3 points per game and 463.2 yards of total offense. Those numbers drop drastically in their six losses, averaging only 17.7 points per game. The Aggies have moved to freshman quarterback Jordan Love to lead the offense after benching Kent Myers and they have struggled to get consistent play from either, totaling just 1,389 yards passing and 11 touchdowns.
Average teams clash
Neither team beat another team with a .500 record or better during the season, with the best win for either team coming via Utah State beating a five-win UNLV team. Including the less than impressive resumes, these teams are nearly the actual definition of the word average, both are 6-6, 4-4 in conference play.
The key matchup: NMSU passing offense vs. Utah State passing defense.
This is how the game will be decided. One of the top passing offenses taking on one of the top passing defenses. Utah State will do enough to contain Rogers and the NMSU offensive attack and win its fourth bowl game in seven years.