This game features a pair of teams with 6-6 records so, as you can imagine, neither team was impressive.
The Cougars' best wins were over a 6-6 Washington team and an 8-4 San Diego State squad. Its other 4 victories came against the bottom four teams in the Mountain West. Without a four-week run through those teams, BYU would not be here.
UTEP's best win was a 28-14 upset of SMU. All of the Miners' other FBS wins came against teams that won no more than 4 games and they needed that opening day win over FCS member Arkansas-Pine Bluff to get the requisite 6th win for bowl eligibility.
UTEP's No. 75 ranking in CollegeFootballPoll.com's Congrove Computer Rankings (CCR Top 120 is the lowest among teams which finished 6-6 or better. BYU's No. 56 ranking is the second-highest among such teams.
BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall recognized the work that needs to be done to rebuild his program when he accepted the invitation to play in this game. "We look forward to the opportunity to continue to improve our team and build for the future," he said.
BYU made a huge push in the second half of the regular season to get bowl-eligible after opening 2-5 through the first seven games. The Cougars finished in a three-way tie with Air Force and San Diego State for third place in the Mountain West Conference.
BYU has a storied bowl history, having made 28 bowl appearances. BYU's last five bowl trips were to Las Vegas where it won 3 of its last 4, including a 44-20 triumph over Oregon State last year.
"I’m impressed how our football team turned the season around after a slow start," said BYU director of athletics Tom Holmoe. "We are very excited to be playing in the New Mexico Bowl. I am happy for our seniors who fought hard to keep our bowl streak alive."
The BYU Cougars become the fourth institution to represent the MWC in the New Mexico Bowl, following New Mexico (2006-07), Colorado State (2008) and Wyoming (2009). The MWC representative has been victorious in the New Mexico Bowl the past three years.
UTEP, which will represent Conference USA, becomes the first team from outside the Mountain West Conference and Western Athletic Conference to appear in New Mexico Bowl. The Miners will be playing in their first bowl game since 2005.
"We are all very happy that things worked out the way they did and UTEP is coming to the New Mexico Bowl," said Jeff Siembieda, New Mexico Bowl Executive Director. "We are thrilled to have the Miners and their incredible fans as a part of this event. It just seems to be a natural.
BYU holds a 28-7-1 advantage in the series which is being renewed for the first time since 1998 when each institution was a member of the WAC. The Cougars are 25-2 against the Miners in the last 27 meetings dating back to 1970.
The fifth annual New Mexico Bowl will be played on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. ET at University Stadium on the University of New Mexico campus. The game, which kicks off the FBS postseason, will be televised nationally on ESPN and ESPN HD.