Former WAC foes will be pitted against each other on Saturday as Fresno State and UTEP square off in the New Mexico Bowl following a resurgent season for both programs. After going 7-11 over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Bulldogs are making their first bowl appearance since the 2018 season. UTEP, meanwhile, is bowling for the first time since the 2014 New Mexico Bowl after enduring a 2-34 stretch from 2017 to 2019.

Fresno State will be led by interim coach Lee Marks after Kalen DeBoer's departure for Washington following a 9-3 regular season highlighted by wins over UCLA and San Diego State. Marks has been the program's running backs coach and will go against UTEP coach Dana Dimel, who has resurrected the Miners from the depths of the FBS.

Dimel inherited a team that had gone winless in 2017, and he won a total of two games in his first two seasons. But after a 3-5 season in 2020, the Miners broke through with a 6-1 start to the 2021 campaign. The end result is the program's third bowl appearance in the last 16 seasons.

Fresno State vs. UTEP: Need to know

Quarterback mystery: Shortly after DeBoer took the Washington job, Fresno State star quarterback Jake Haener entered the transfer portal. For a moment, it seemed like Haener might be destined to return to Washington, where he began his college career. But Haener has withdrawn his name from the portal and could play against UTEP. However, it's unclear who the Bulldogs will start under center as Marks has elected to "keep everything in house." Electing to play anyone other than Haener at quarterback would imperil the Bulldogs' chances of reaching 10 wins, but there is at least some mystery over who will play quarterback for Fresno State in this game. 

UTEP's defense: UTEP has held opponents to just 203.7 yards passing per game this season, but its passing defense will be tested, especially if Haener plays. Fresno State averages 330.1 yards per game through the air, which is ninth nationally. The Miners have also been solid defensively in the red zone, ranking 19th nationally in red zone defense. Maintaining success in either of those categories against the high-flying Bulldogs will be a challenge. If the Miners can meet it, they'll have a chance.

New Mexico Bowl history: These programs are no strangers to the New Mexico Bowl. UTEP is making its third appearance in the game and looking for its first victory after the Miners lost 52-24 against BYU in 2010 and 21-6 against Utah State in 2014. Fresno State is also 0-2 in the New Mexico Bowl with a 40-35 loss against Colorado State in 2008 and a 35-28 double-overtime loss to Wyoming in 2009.

How to watch New Mexico Bowl live

Game: New Mexico Bowl
: Saturday, Dec. 18 | Time: 2:15 p.m. ET
Location: University Stadium -- Albuquerque, New Mexico
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)

New Mexico Bowl prediction, picks

Fresno State already lost DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb to Washington. There is also some mystery around whether Haener will start after he entered and then withdrew from the transfer portal. UTEP will be plenty motivated to put a nice cap on a breakthrough season and should be able to stay in this one until the end. Prediction: UTEP (+11.5)

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