With the New Mexico State Aggies arriving in Tucson, AZ at approximately 3:00 PM MST yesterday, the festivities for the 2017 Arizona Bowl are officially underway. New Mexico State (6-6) from the Sun Belt Conference will engage the line of scrimmage with the Utah State Aggies (6-6) out of the Mountain West Conference. That’s right folks. . . It’ll be an all-Aggie affair at beautiful Arizona Stadium. Speaking of beautiful, sunny skies and a temperature around 78-degrees at kickoff will liven everyone’s spirits for the 3rd annual Arizona Bowl.
Game coverage: December 29th at 5:30 PM EST on CBS Sports Network
Utah State had to wait awhile for their bowl bid. In fact, these Aggies were on the verge of not playing in a bowl game until Tucson came calling. With New Mexico State already chomping at the bit to play in their first bowl game since 1960, Utah State was in a nail-biting, holding pattern until they finally received the good news that they were going bowling.
No, that isn’t a typo above. You have to go all the way back to 1960 to find the Aggies from New Mexico State representing their program in a bowl. And how about this nugget? New Mexico State’s opponent in the 1960 Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX — Utah State. The Aggies from Las Cruces, NM can avenge a 20-13 loss to those Aggies from Logan, Utah on Friday afternoon. Yes, both schools have mediocre 6-6 records, but you can’t say I haven’t provided a little intrigue for you to watch this one.
On the turf, Utah State likes to run the pigskin and control the clock. It’s the complete opposite for NMSU — they have one of the most prolific passing attacks in the country. If NMSU has success airing it out, Utah State can kiss their hopes of a bowl win goodbye. USU will have to pound the rock on the ground, keep the chains and the clock moving, and end drives with touchdowns to escape Tucson victoriously.
New Mexico State ranks fourth in the nation with 352.6 passing yards per game. Senior quarterback Tyler Rogers has slung the pigskin to the tune of 3,825 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season. Rogers can make throws from multiple angles and platforms. Basically, he can toss it around the lot without having to be balanced and steady on two feet. Back foot, wrong foot, you name it. . . This kid can simply air it out.
Of course, one can only do this with outstanding wide receivers. How about Jaleel Scott at wideout for the Las Cruces Aggies? He stands 6’6″ and weighs in at 215-pounds, giving Mr. Rogers a gigantic target. Scott has made the most of his senior season with 73 catches for 1,042 yards and eight trips to the house.
Flip the script to the Logan Aggies, and you get freshman quarterback Jordan Love running the show. Mr. Love won’t get the green light to sling it like Rogers. Love’s job is to be a game manager, keep his mistakes to a minimum, and rely on a stout offensive line and running attack to get the job done. Utah State boasts a bevy of running backs, but their most reliable is 5’8″ and 195-pound senior tailback LaJuan Hunt. He’s short in stature, but packs a punch while leading USU in rushing with 695 yards on 149 touches and 10 touchdowns.
I’ll give you an even better idea of the importance of Utah State’s running game — these Aggies averaged 10 rushing first downs in “Ws”, compared to just five in losses. You get the picture.
So, who’ll leave with the trophy? Utah State is favored, but don’t expect them to walk away with the hardware if they can’t establish the run. Meanwhile, if New Mexico State has USU on air raid alert, these Aggies will celebrate with a bowl victory for the first time in nearly 60-years.