The 2018 New Mexico Bowl will pit the C-USA and Mountain West against each other this season. North Texas will be playing Utah State on Dec. 15, the first day of bowl games. Here is the 2018 New Mexico Bowl preview:
North Texas Mean Green (9-3)
North Texas had a great season under head coach Seth Littrell, going 9-3. They lost to two bowl-eligible teams (Louisiana Tech and UAB) and one team that did not qualify for a bowl (Old Dominion). The Mean Green were able to beat two teams who went at least .500 this year in Southern Miss and Liberty, but their most notable win came over Arkansas out of the SEC.
The offense has no problem putting up points, ranking 22nd in the country in points per game at 36.4. They are one of the best passing offenses in the FBS at 316.3 yards per game. On the ground, they average 156.6 yards per game, but their clear focus is on the passing game.
Mason Fine is one of the best quarterbacks in college football that the general public doesn’t know about. He has 3,734 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions on 64.6% completion. Rico Bussey is his main target and has 1,017 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Jalen Guyton, Jaelon Darden, Michael Lawrence, Kelvin Smith and DeAndre Torrey all have over 20 catches and 200 yards as well.
Torrey also leads the team in rushing, making him a do-it-all running back. He has 942 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns on the season. Loren Easly and Nic Smith have each chipped in with over 300 yards as well.
The Mean Green have the 31st best scoring defense in the country at 21.8 points allowed per game. They allow 246.1 yards per game passing and 113.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 91st and 15th respectively. Linebacker E.J. Ejiya is one of the best tacklers in the country with 113. He also has provided a good pass rusher with nine sacks.
Utah State Aggies (10-2)
Matt Wells did a fantastic job this season as the head coach of the Aggies, but he has moved on to Texas Tech. The Aggies went 10-2 with losses to Michigan State and Boise State, who are both playing in bowl games. They beat three bowl eligible teams including BYU, Wyoming and Hawai’i.
The Aggies have the third highest scoring offense at 47.2 points per game. At 288.8 yards per game their pass offense ranks 18th in the FBS. Utah State’s rushing offense is also good 203.7 yards per game, which ranks 34th in the country.
Jordan Love has operated the offense at quarterback. He has 3,208 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and five interceptions on 65.8% completion. He has used a wide variety of receivers, as seven have over 200 yards receiving. The leading receiver is Ron’quavion Tarver, who has 62 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns.
Two running backs do the majority of the work for the Aggies on the ground. Darwin Thompson is the leading rusher with 951 yards and 14 touchdowns. Gerold Bright has helped with his 785 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
They have the 38th ranked scoring defense at 23 points allowed per game. The Aggies are 44th against the run at 144.9 yards allowed and 83rd in pass defense with 240.1 yards allowed. Linebacker David Woodward has been an impact player on defense with 124 total tackles. Tipa Galei, another linebacker, has provided pressure on opposing quarterbacks with his 8.5 sacks.
The question in this game is whether Utah State can cope with the loss of Wells, who won’t coach this game after leaving for the Texas Tech job. Their offense is running like a well-oiled machine, so his impact can still be felt, but they should be able to win without him.
Utah State Aggies 36 North Texas Mean Green 30
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