The Arizona Bowl is one of the newer additions to the crowded bowl slate. This game has yet to pick up a ton of steam as a legitimately good matchup, and this year’s game probably isn’t going to add to its hype very much. That said, this is a huge contest for Utah State and New Mexico State — a pair of Aggies just happy to be playing meaningful December football.
New Mexico State Bowl History
The powers that be at NMSU made it clear that the Aggies were only playing in a bowl game if they were invited to a duel that would force them to fly.
This is the fourth all-time bowl game for the Aggies and first since 1960. It’s also the only time New Mexico State has played in a postseason contest aside from the Sun Bowl.
If the Aggies are victorious in this one, it’ll be their first winning season since 2002.
Utah State Bowl History
Utah State is playing in a bowl game for the 11th time in its history. The difference between these Aggies and the Aggies from New Mexico State is that USU has been playing well over the course of the last several seasons. This is the sixth time in the last seven years the Aggies have played in a December bowl game.
Utah State has won three of its last five appearances in bowls.
Why New Mexico State Will Win the Arizona Bowl
No team is going to be more motivated to play in a postseason game than New Mexico State. These Aggies don’t get to play in big stadiums all that often, and they certainly don’t get the chance to play on national television often either.
Tyler Rogers is one of the most accomplished players in the history of NMSU football. This is his final game after four years as the team’s starting quarterback.
Rogers has thrown the ball 512 times already this season, and he’s leading the nation’s fourth-best passing attack. Utah State’s pass defense is good at No. 16 in the land, but that’s largely due to all of the teams in the Mountain West that don’t throw the football often.
Why Utah State Will Win the Arizona Bowl
With such poor quarterback play, it’s amazing Utah State got to six wins. The team was blown out by Wisconsin and Wake Forest in non-conference action, but it snared some big wins over Boise State and UNLV then held serve in games it should have won against the rest of the MWC.
It seems that LaJuan Hunt is always in line for a few big plays when the Aggies are at their best. He’s had three 100-plus yard games in his last five duels overall. Not surprisingly, Utah State is 3-0 in said games and 0-2 when he doesn’t hit the century mark on the ground.
Arizona Bowl Prediction
The biggest dog game of the bowl season could be interesting, if nothing else. Utah State’s Jordan Love can make some plays with his arm and his legs, and he’s going to have to do it all to keep up with New Mexico State.
In the end, the men from Las Cruces should be alright in the Arizona Bowl. Rogers kept this team competitive against Arizona State and Troy in the beginning of the season, and those losses really helped build the character of this club. If the Arizona Bowl ends up being close, we suspect NMSU will find a way to do just enough.
Arizona Bowl Pick: New Mexico State 37, Utah State 34
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