Why You Should Watch: It's the very first bowl game of the year! It's Saturday at 2:00 p.m., and don't you really want one more dose of Saturday afternoon football before the relatives start showing up and the holidays start getting a little too real? Plus, sure, BYU is 6-6, but that record's a bit misleading, as the Stormin' Mormons' regular season schedule featured seven bowl teams -- including all four non-conference foes. UTEP also faced a litany of impressive players, including Ryan Mallett with Arkansas and Houston QB Case Keenum before his season-ending injury. Neither defense is going to be surprised or overmatched, compared to what they'd seen earlier in the season.
Keys to Victory for BYU: The Cougars need to get Jake Heaps going early in the game. The freshman quarterback has been turning his season around after throwing just two touchdowns in his first eight games; Heaps is up to 11 passing TDs on the year and another TD on the ground, and the UTEP passing defense is just porous enough to allow the Cougars to get something going if they're in the mood.
But most of all, BYU has to shake the Green Chili Curse. Every year, before the New Mexico Bowl, the two teams engage in a green chili cookoff in honor of New Mexico's most famous cuisine. Trouble is, the winning team in the cookoff is 0-4 in the actual bowl game thereafter. Brigham Young won this year, so that's obviously a problem; near as we can tell, there are ancient gods who control green chilis and punish those who desecrate their sacred fruit to the infidel judges' liking in said competition. That's a factor BYU needs to account for, or this game's as good as lost. Either that or the cookoff correlation is just random chance, but where's the fun in that?
Keys to Victory for UTEP: On paper, UTEP is overmatched in this game, but the Miners are facing a freshman quarterback with a penchant for not throwing touchdowns who's playing in his very first bowl game. So often, these minor bowl games just come down to a battle of who could care less, so if ever there were an opportunity for UTEP to grab its first bowl win since 1967, it's now.
QB Trevor Vittatoe and star wideout Kris Adams are likely the keys for UTEP. Both are seniors playing in their last game as Miners, and despite their considerable career numbers, neither is projected to be much of a factor in the NFL as of right now. Adams might get drafted late; Vittatoe probably won't. If the tandem can hook up the deep game a couple more times in their last dance, UTEP could put up enough points to take this game.
The New Mexico Bowl is like: a glass of water. What's the first thing you get when you dine out? Appetizer? Salad? Rolls and butter? Drink order? No, no, no, and no; it's that ubiquitous glass of water, there to welcome you to the restaurant and whet your appetite for what's to come. It's not there to satisfy, and to expect otherwise would be just silly. Yet the longer you wait for it, the more uncomfortable everybody at the table becomes. Ladies and gentlemen, fret not; your water is here, and your bowl experience is about to begin.