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WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEK: It is championship time for the Mountain West and Conference USA as both leagues hold its games on Saturday. The Dynacraft Conference USA Championship is at 10 a.m. MT on ESPN, hosted by East Division champions, Florida Atlantic. The Owls are the seventh team in C-USA’s 22-year football history to finish the league regular season undefeated and the fourth to post an 8-0 record in league play. The West Division champs are the North Texas Mean Green. Both teams are making their first appearance in the C-USA Championship Game. The last time that happened was 2013, when Rice defeated Marshall in the title game. This is the fifth time that the teams playing in the C-USA Championship met during the regular season. The Owls won that meeting on Oct. 21 at home, 69-31. The team that won the regular season contest is 2-2 in the rematch.
The Mountain West Championship features two teams that are no strangers to each other in that they played in Fresno, Calif. last weekend. Fresno State, the West Division champions, made use of its homefield advantage, besting the East Champion Boise State Broncos, 28-17. The 2017 MW title contest will be a rematch of the 2014 MW Football Championship Game, which was also held in Boise. The Broncos earned a 28-14 victory, capturing their first outright MW Football Championship. This will be Fresno State’s third appearance in the MW Football Championship game and Boise State’s second.
FIU closes out its regular season with a mid-seson addition in UMass. The Panthers were originally slated to play Indiana in week 3 but had to postpone the game due to Hurricane Irma. The Minutemen were also looking at an 11-game season and agreed to play the game at Noon ET in Miami. These two have played twice before with UMass winning both.
POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: All but three teams in the FBS have had their fate decided with 79 teams that are bowl eligible and 48 that are not. Three teams have accepted bids to bowl games. Army will play in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. UAB and Ohio both accepting invitations to the Bahamas Bowl. The remainder of the bowl schedule will be announced on Sunday, Dec. 3. The College Football Playoff will announce the semifinal teams at 10:30 a.m. MT, followed by the rest of the Top 25 at Noon. The matchups for the remaining New Year’s Six bowl games will come at 1 p.m. and then all others will be announced throughout the afternoon and into early evening.
Conference USA has 10 members that are eligible with nine among the group waiting for an invitation to the postseason. Conference USA has six bowl tie-ins which Florida Atlantic, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Southern Miss, UAB, UTSA and WKU wait to fill. The Mountain West has six eligible teams, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State and Wyoming, with five primary commitments and three backup options.
POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS: Several national collegiate football analysts do their best to piece together a prediction for how the bowl lineup will turn out. The projections for the 2017 Gildan New Mexico Bowl vary with six different Conference USA schools and five Mountain West programs getting nods. San Diego State leads the way as the Mountain West representative with seven nods while Fresno State (2), Wyoming (1), Utah State (1) and Colorado State (1) also garner votes. For Conference USA, three are predicting the North Texas Mean Green will be making their first appearance in the Albuquerque-based bowl while three say UTSA will make its second consecutive appearance. For a complete breakdown, look at the chart below.
RIDING THE RAILS: The New Mexico Railrunner is encouraging everyone to get out and see more of the Land of Enchantment. Anyone presenting a 2017 Gildan New Mexico Bowl ticket on the train will ride free during the week of Dec. 17-24. The ticket will be punched going and collected on the return trip.
DOUBLE THE FUN: Ski New Mexico, in association with the New Mexico Tourism Department, has partnered with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl to provide ticketholders an extraordinary opportunity to enjoy two New Mexico True experiences. From December 17-24, 2017, one bowl game ticket can be redeemed for a free lift ticket. This offer is valid at one of Ski New Mexico’s eight great ski areas: Ski Apache, Taos Ski Valley, Ski Santa Fe, Pajarito Mountain, Red River Ski Area, Angel Fire Resort, Sipapu Ski Resort, and Sandia Peak. The Gildan New Mexico Bowl ticket must be presented in person at the ski area ticket office for redemption and must be used the same day as redeemed. Limit is one per person and there is no cash value or refund. Gildan New Mexico Bowl tickets are on sale now at the UNM Ticket office, located in the Northeast corner of Dreamstyle Arena, online at www.unmtickets.com or www.gildandreamhousenewmexicobowl.com or by phone at the UNM ticket office (925-5626) or the Gildan New Mexico Bowl office (925-5999). Discount codes ($5 off $25 North End Zone general admission or $10 off $40 premium bowl tickets) are also currently available on New Mexico Lottery Powerball®, Mega Millions® and Mega Millions® Just the Jackpot™ tickets through Friday, December 8.
MEET YOUR NM TRUE HEROES: New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez announced this year’s New Mexico True Heroes at the Hispano Cultural Center in Albuquerque on Monday. They are Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Deputy Jamar Cotton, 14-year-old Carlsbad resident Winnie Keller, 14-year-old Albuquerque resident Donovan Smith and Mike and Debbie Torres of Rio Rancho.
“Our 2017 New Mexico True Heroes are leaders in their communities and work hard day in and day out to make our state a wonderful place to call home,” Gov. Susana Martinez said in a news release announcing the recipients. “Today we’re recognizing New Mexicans who lead by example to help people and make their communities better. Each of them, through their commitment, compassion, and service, exemplify daily what it means to be New Mexico True.”
“New Mexico True Heroes gives us an opportunity to highlight our state’s greatest treasure: our people,” Tourism Department Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Latham said in a news release. “This year’s class of New Mexico True Heroes and truly exemplary, and show that New Mexico is home to resilient, hardworking people who care about their state and their communities.” The New Mexico True Heroes Awards were developed by the New Mexico Tourism Department in partnership with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in 2014. Dozens of nominations were submitted from friends, family members, students and coworkers. A panel of community leaders representing areas from all over the state determined the finalists. This year’s honorees will be recognized at the 2017 Gildan New Mexico Bowl both during the player’s luncheon on Dec. 15 and on the field during the game on Dec. 16.
GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL CONNECTIONS: As of November 30, there are currently 41 former collegiate athletes who played in at least one of the previous New Mexico Bowls and is listed as active, practice squad or injured reserve among 23 of the 32 NFL teams. The Denver Broncos boast the most alums with five. On the collegiate side, Washington State and Colorado State have produced the most active pros with six apiece. UTSA’s Jarveon Williams is the lone participant from last year’s game currently on an NFL roster. All-time, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl has had 169 alumni listed on an NFL roster.