The 11th New Mexico Bowl will kick off bowl season -- on the FBS level anyway -- with New Mexico taking on UTSA.
New Mexico comes into the game with a record of 8-4, and it finished second in the Mountain West's Mountain Division. The Roadrunners of UTSA are only 6-6 but went 5-3 in conference play to finish second in Conference USA's West Division.
Date: Saturday Dec. 17
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Live stream: WatchESPN.com / Watch ESPN apps
New Mexico: While they haven't received many headlines, the Lobos have been one of the most interesting stories of the 2016 season. This was a program that had been going through a rough patch from 2008-11, compiling a record of 7-41 in that time. Bob Davie took over in 2012, bringing an option offense, and though it took some time (Davie went 11-26 the first three seasons), the Lobos have now put together consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the 2004 and 2005 seasons. This will be the second straight year the Lobos play in the New Mexico Bowl, having lost to Arizona 45-37 last season.
UTSA: This is the Roadrunners' fifth season as an FBS program and first ever trip to a bowl game. Frank Martin had spent years as a valuable assistant and recruiter at places like Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU, and he hasn't needed much time to get UTSA turned around. The Roadrunners went 6-6 this season after going 7-17 the last two seasons.
Players to watch
New Mexico: New Mexico is an option team, which means it doesn't really want to pass the ball for anything more than effect or out of necessity. That means its running backs take on a greater importance, and the Lobos have two backs who have gone over 1,000 yards this season. Teriyon Gipson led the team with 1,209 yards and averaged 9.23 yards per carry. Tyrone Owens, who missed the Lobos' season finale with a foot injury, but is expected to be ready for the bowl game, rushed for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns. And then there's Richard McQuarley. He may have only rushed for 588 yards, but he scored 16 touchdowns. So there's a three-headed monster in this backfield to contend with.
UTSA: While not as prolific as New Mexico's running backs, both Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes both had excellent seasons for the Roadrunners. Williams led the team with 775 rushing yards and scored eight touchdowns. Rhodes led the team with nine rushing scores while rushing for 756 yards. There's also quarterback Dalton Sturm, who threw for 2,052 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 263 yards and four more touchdowns.
There haven't been many teams that have been able to slow down New Mexico's offense this season, as it's averaging 37.8 points per game in 2016. While UTSA's run defense has been rather respectable this season, I don't know how confident I am in its ability to stop New Mexico. And with this game being in Albuquerque, it's somewhat of a home game for the Lobos. Pick: New Mexico (-7)