ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Bowl: North Texas (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2), Dec. 15, 2 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Line: Utah State by 7 1/2
Series Record: Utah State leads 4-3
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Utah State is making its seventh postseason appearance in eight years but hasn’t won a bowl game since its 21-6 victory over UTEP in the 2014 New Mexico Bowl. The Aggies’ 10-1 start this season was the best in school history. However, Utah State enters the New Mexico Bowl with an interim coach and an ad hoc of graduate assistant coordinators after head coach Matt Wells left to take a job with Texas Tech. Meanwhile, North Texas head coach Seth Littrell announced last week he was staying with the Mean Green and put down rumors he would take a coaching job at Kansas State. The Mean Green are 23-16 under Littrell but are 0-2 in bowl games. This year marks the second time North Texas has won nine games in back-to-back seasons.
Utah State and North Texas both have offenses that can score a lot of points in a hurry. The Aggies set a school record this year with 72 touchdowns and 566 total points. Utah State’s average margin of victory is 24.2 points, the third-highest in the country behind Alabama and Clemson. North Texas is ranked 21st in the nation in average points per game with 36.4. The Mean Green have scored 40 point six times this season and are set to break their school record with 316.2 passing yards per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Utah State: Sophomore quarterback Jordan Love has passed for 3,208 yards with 28 touchdowns and five interceptions. Sophomore wide receiver Savon Scarver leads the nation in kickoff returns with 34.2 yards per return and is tied for second nationally with two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
North Texas: Junior quarterback Mason Fine is eighth in the FBS averaging 311.2 passing yards per game and ranks eighth nationally in total passing yards with 3,734. Fine’s favorite weapon is junior wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr., who leads the Mean Green with 68 catches. Bussey has 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season.
Utah State leads the nation in kickoff returns at 29.7 yards per return. …This year, North Texas began selling shirts featuring Cherokee syllabary in honor of Fine. The Peggs, Oklahoma, native grew up in a non-traditional Native American household but has spoken openly of his Cherokee heritage and has drawn praise from the Cherokee Nation for his play on the field. … Utah State introduced Gary Andersen this week as the Aggies’ new head coach. Andersen previously coached the team from 2009 to 2014 before taking head coaching jobs with Wisconsin and Oregon State. He said he won’t be attending the New Mexico Bowl. … North Texas may be known for its passing offense but sophomore running back DeAndre Torrey leads the team with 17 touchdowns. … Utah State has won 29 of its last 34 games when it has a 100-yard rusher. … Mean Green brothers Sosaia and Manase Mose have started 11 games next to each other on the offensive line.
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