The 3rd annual New Mexico Bowl features two teams whose seasons went in opposite directions as Colorado State outperformed expectations while Fresno State severely underperformed.
The Rams were projected as the 8th-place team in the 9-team Mountain West conference. But under first-year head coach Steve Fairchild, Colorado State won three of its' first five games, including a 28-25 upset of Houston. The Rams also nearly upset BYU.
Aside from a win over Houston, Colorado State's victories were unimpressive as they came against FCS member Sacramento State, and Mountain West also-rans UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Fresno State was picked by many preseason prognosticators as the team to beat in the WAC. But the Bulldogs won just two of their five home games and those came against Idaho and New Mexico State. Fresno's best wins were a 24-7 rout at Rutgers (7-5) in the season opener and a 24-10 victory over San Jose State (6-6) in the next-to-last game of the season. The remaining five victories all came against teams that won no more than four games.
The Rams are making their first appearance since 2005 and are winless in postseason games since capturing the 2001 New Orleans Bowl over North Texas.
The Bulldogs are bowling for the ninth time in their last ten seasons, and have won four of their last five bowl games.
As evidenced by their mediocre won-lost records, you won't find either of these teams near the top of the charts on offense or defense. Fresno State ranks 43rd offensively, and 89th defensively. CSU ranks 46th on offense, and 96th on defense. Combined, these teams committed 42 turnovers during the season with the Bulldogs giving it up 23 times.
The New Mexico Bowl is played on the campus of the University of New Mexico. ESPN will air the game beginning at 2:30 eastern on December 20.