Utah State Aggies (-10.5, 49 o/u) vs. UTEP Miners
This Saturday, the Utah State Aggies will square off with the UTEP Miners in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium in Albuquerque (2:20 p.m. Eastern).
The Utah State Aggies finished the season with a 9-4 record (6-2 Mountain West) but were just 6-7 against the spread. They started the season so-so, going 4-3 in their first seven. Then the Aggies strung together five straight wins and, heading into the final game of the regular season, had a chance to win the strangely named “Mountain Division” of the Mountain West conference.
However, the Aggies were crushed by the Boise State Broncos, 50-19, in their final regular season contest, sending the Broncos to the Mountain West title game and the Aggies to the New Mexico Bowl.
The Aggies best win on the year was a 35-20 road triumph over then-No. 18 BYU. Utah State head coach Matt Wells has done a tremendous keeping the small football program on the winning track; Utah State has been to four consecutive bowl games and this will be their second under Wells. The coach has perhaps done too good a job, though, and has been rumored to be on the move to bigger things.
Wells addressed those rumors, stating, “I’ve said from the beginning, that if you’re winning games and you’re doing a good job as a program, then calls are going to come in. If the phone rings, I answer it. … I’m going to listen and if it’s better for me and my family, then the process may continue”.
He added, “I’m very, very happy at Utah State. It will take something very, very special for me to leave here if that ever comes to be.”
Utah State averages 27.4 points per game and they do it with a good combination of passing and running, averaging just over 208 yards through the air and 172 on the ground. It’s been the defense that has come up big in the majority of the Aggies’ wins, though, holding opponents to a mere 20.8 points per game on the year, top-20 in the nation.
The Aggies will be facing a UTEP squad that ended the season 7-5 straight up (5-3 C-USA), but were a great bet, posting a 9-3 ATS record. They beat Middle Tennessee in their last outing to earn a bowl bid.
The Miners only had one winning streak on the year; they beat Old Dominion, UTSA, and Southern Miss in three straight games from mid-October to early November. They faced just one ranked team, losing 58-28 to then-No. 25 Kansas State.
UTEP’s strength is its rushing attack, which averages 212.7 yards per game (34th in the nation). Running back Aaron Jones did the majority of the damage, racking up 1,233 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
The Miners are 5-8 in bowl games, and this is their first since 2010; their last bowl win was back 1967.
The Aggies failed to reach a bowl game between 1997 and 2011. However, as mentioned, this will be their fourth straight bowl appearance, and the Aggies will be looking for a third straight bowl win. Last year, they beat Northern Illinois, 21-14, in the Poinsettia Bowl.
The more experienced Aggies are 10.5-point favorites, and the over/under is at 49.
(Photo credit: John McStravick [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)