2014 New Mexico Bowl Picks: Utah State vs. UTEP Odds and Expert Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 12/15/2014
There are 39 bowl games this year, and Utah State and UTEP will meet in the second one of the bowl season. These two teams will square off in the New Mexico Bowl, which has been one of the first bowl games played since the first edition of the bowl in 2006. The last two New Mexico Bowl games have been among the most exciting of any in the entire bowl season. Two years ago, Arizona completed a miraculous comeback by scoring two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the game to beat Nevada 49-48. Last year, Washington State snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and Colorado State won 48-45 on a field goal as time expired. Can this year's game possibly match those finishes?
On the surface, it would be easy to say there aren't a lot of reasons to get excited about the game, but every year there are some great games between two teams that are largely unknown to much of the college football world before the game. As recent ESPN advertisements have said, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year for college football fans.
New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs. UTEP Story Lines
Utah State is playing in a bowl game for the fourth straight year. This is their first trip to the New Mexico Bowl. The Aggies played in the Idaho Potato Bowl for two straight years in 2011 and 2012 before playing in the 2013 Poinsettia Bowl. The Aggies have won their bowl game in the past two seasons. UTEP hasn't won a bowl game since the 1967 Sun Bowl. The Miners have lost five straight bowl games. Their most recent bowl appearance was in the 2010 New Mexico Bowl. Mike Price was the coach of that Miners team, and UTEP was dumped 52-24 by BYU in that game.
Matt Wells has done a nice job continuing the success that Gary Andersen got started at Utah State. Wells was a three-year letterman at Utah State as the team's quarterback. The Aggies have had to deal with a lot of adversity in the last couple years, but that hasn't stopped them from having success. Chuckie Keeton was seen as the primary reason the Aggies were so successful in 2012, but he was lost for much of the year in both 2013 and 2014 with injuries. Darell Garretson did a really good job filling in for Keeton last year, and he was doing a great job again this year before he went down with a wrist injury. Garretson is still recovering from wrist surgery, but there is a bit of talk that he could return for this game. His status is still very much in question. In addition to losing their top two quarterbacks this year, Utah State returned only eight starters from last year's team. The fact that they are back at this point with nine wins already on the year says a lot about how far this program has come.
Speaking of programs that have improved a lot, the job that Sean Kugler has done this year at UTEP is truly amazing. The Price era ended in ugly fashion with UTEP going 3-9 in 2012. Price also didn't leave much talent behind for Kugler to start out with in 2013. The Miners proceeded to go 2-10 in 2013. Expectations for UTEP this year weren't much higher, but they come into this game with an impressive 7-5 record. Kugler has successfully has put his stamp on this program already. Kugler has a background as an offensive line coach for the Lions, Bills, Steelers, and Boise State. After struggling last year, UTEP has developed a good offensive line this year and won by running the ball and controlling time of possession. Aaron Jones is only a sophomore, but he ran for 1,236 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry this year. The Miners defense was also one of the most improved in the nation. UTEP was 9-3 against the spread this year. The turnaround of this program this short of a time speaks volumes as to how good of a coach they have right now.
New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs. UTEP Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Utah State opened as an 11.5-point favorite in this matchup. The Aggies are now favored by 10.5 points at most books. The posted total opened at 50 points at BetDSI, but that number has edged down to 49 points.
Utah State is 16-5 ATS in their last 21 games against a team with a winning record. The Aggies are 11-4-1 ATS in their last 16 following a loss. They are 1-4 ATS in their last five nonconference games. UTEP is 6-1 ATS in their last seven games overall. The Miners are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 vs. a team with a winning record. The "under" is 5-1 in UTEP's last six games. The under is also 5-0-1 in Utah State's last six games in the month of December.
2014 New Mexico Bowl Picks: Utah State vs. UTEP Expert Betting Predictions
Utah State deserves the respect they are getting, but UTEP deserves more respect than they are receiving. This Miners team is hungry, and they have beaten the spread nine times already this year. There is going to be a lot of running in this game, and with a posted total of 49 points, a spread of 10.5 points is quite a bit to have to cover. Utah State has the better defense, so I expect them to win the game, but I think it will be a lot closer than this line would indicate. Grab the points with UTEP in this one.
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