There’s one guarantee I can give you about Friday evening’s Arizona Bowl from Tucson: that the Aggies will win. It’s New Mexico State Aggies of the Sun Belt against the Utah State Aggies of the Mountain West squaring off in the desert. Utah State is a short betting favorite.
2017 Arizona Bowl Betting Prediction: New Mexico State vs. Utah State
— A(ggies)rizona Bowl (@novaAZBOWL) December 21, 2017
When: Friday, 5:30 PM ET
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 1380 AM El Paso (New Mexico State) / KZNS 1280 (Utah State)
Opening Arizona Bowl Lines: USU -3 (61.5)
- Clear: 23°C/74°F
- Humidity: 13%
- Precipitation: 0%
- Wind: 6 mph NNW
- Cloud Cover: 0%
- Type of Stadium: Open
This is one of the newest bowl games (and one of few not on ESPN) as the inaugural game was held on Dec. 29, 2015, between the Nevada and Colorado State. It was to be played between teams from Conference USA and the Mountain West, with the Sun Belt as a partner. But due to a lack of bowl-eligible Conference USA and Sun Belt teams to meet the tie-in, the game was played between Mountain West teams, marking the first time since 1979 that two teams from the same conference appeared in a non-championship bowl. The 2016 bowl saw Air Force beat South Alabama 45-21.
Utah State and New Mexico State have a history in bowl games, as NMSU posted a 20-13 win against Utah State in the 1960 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. Ironically, that was the last bowl game NMSU had appeared in prior to this season. Utah State and New Mexico State spent 26 years as conference foes as both were members of the Big West Conference from 1985-2000, members of the Sun Belt Conference from 2002-03, and members of the Western Athletic Conference from 2005-12.
Latest Arizona Bowl Betting Trends
- Utah State is 6-13 ATS in the last 19 games
- Utah State is 7-14 SU in the last 21 games
- The total went OVER in 7 of Utah State’s last 10 games
- New Mexico State is 1-4 ATS in the last 5 games
- New Mexico State is 4-2 SU in the last 6 games
- The total went UNDER in 5 of New Mexico State’s last 5 games when playing Utah State
Why Bet on New Mexico State?
After 57 years of coming up short for a bowl game, NM State broke the drought with a 6-6 record in 2017. The home finale featured the Aggies taking down South Alabama on the team’s final drive of the game, 22-17. It made the Aggies bowl eligible for the first time since 2002.
Coach Doug Martin engineered a historic regular-season which featured the nation’s fourth best passing offense with 352.6 yards per game and a defense that set a new program record for sacks in a single-season with 40.
Quarterback Tyler Rogers came back from injury to throw for 451 yards and led New Mexico State on the game-winning drive against South Alabama. Rogers was in a rhythm all night going 40-for-61 for 451 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In the closing minutes, he led the Aggies 83 yards down the field and capped off the series with a seven-yard touchdown pass.
How Well Did New Mexico State Do This Season?
This year, the Aggies averaged 453.8 total yards of offense per game, including a Sun Belt-best 352.6 Rodgers threw for a conference-leading 3,825 yards with 26 touchdown passes. Wide receiver Jaleel Scott also posted a standout season as the senior led the team with eight touchdowns and 1,042 total yards. Rodgers is second all-time at the school in passing yards (10,181), completions (903), attempts (1,467), passing touchdowns (68), total offense (10,784) and total touchdowns (81).
Senior running back Larry Rose III already is second all-time at the school for rushing yards (4,425) and rushing touchdowns (36), third in carries (756), and all-purpose yards (5,612) and fourth in scoring (240). Scott sits 10th all-time in receiving touchdowns (13), despite only playing in just his second season as an Aggie.
Why Bet on Utah State?
USU played in five straight bowl games from 2011-15 and won three straight bowls from 2012-14, both of which are school records. All-time, USU is 4-7 in its 11 bowl games and this marks the first repeat opponent for Utah State in a bowl game.
USU’s 30 victories against NMSU is the fourth-most against any opponent in school history, trailing the 38 wins versus Wyoming, the 36 victories against Brigham Young and the 33 wins against Colorado State. With a win against New Mexico State this time, Utah State will finish the season at 7-6 and record its third winning season under head coach Matt Wells and its 61st winning season in school history.
Utah State is 8-1 under Wells following a bye or multiple weeks off heading into a bowl game. USU is also 17-11 following a loss under Wells, including a 4-1 record this season.
How Well Was Utah State’s Season?
Defensively, Utah State has forced 26 turnovers (15 fumbles, 11 interceptions) this year, which ranks second in the Mountain West and tied for ninth in the nation. Last year, USU forced just 10 turnovers the entire season. USU also ranks tied for second in the nation with its 15 fumble recoveries, and is fourth in the Mountain West and 55th in the nation with its 11 interceptions on the season. Utah State ranks 17th in the nation in passing yards allowed (181.8 ypg), while New Mexico State ranks fourth in the nation in passing offense (352.6 ypg).
Utah State averaged 44.3 points and 463.2 yards of total offense (231.7 rushing, 231.5 passing) in its six wins this season, while allowing 14.2 points and 329.8 yards of offense (207.2 rushing, 122.7 passing). QB Jordan Love is 104-of-191 (.545) passing for 1,377 yards (125.2 ypg) with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Senior RB LaJuan Hunt leads the team in rushing with 695 yards on 149 carries (4.7 ypc/57.9 ypg) with 10 touchdowns, and junior WR Ron’quavion Tarver has 40 receptions for 472 yards (11.8 ypr/39.3 ypg) with seven touchdowns.
Expert Prediction & Arizona Bowl Pick
New Mexico State is a great story but Utah State is simply a better team and covers.