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New Mexico Bowl 2010: 10 Things To Know About BYU vs. UTEP

Brandon BeckerCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2010

New Mexico Bowl 2010: 10 Things To Know About BYU vs. UTEP

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    The BYU Cougars will take on the UTEP Miners in this year's New Mexico Bowl. Both teams finished with identical 6-6 records this season and finishing over .500 will be riding on the line.

    Last year's New Mexico Bowl was an exciting game that went two double overtime that saw Wyoming best Fresno State, 35-28.

    BYU and UTEP will meet December 18th and fans can only hope that the two teams produce a game exciting as Wyoming-Fresno State did. 

    If you are unfamiliar with the two teams there's no need to worry. Here are 10 things to know about the two schools and the game.

UTEP Is Happy to Be Here

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    This is the Miners first bowl game since 2005 when they played in the GMAC Bowl and lost to Toledo by 32 points. This time around UTEP is looking for a different outcome, although getting back to a bowl game may be enough.

    When picking bowl games it's important to decipher whether or not the teams in the game are disappointed with which bowl they were placed in. 

    The Miners won't take this game for granted and are definitely excited to be back in a bowl. On the other side the opposite can be said for the Cougars, which brings me to the next slide.

BYU Isn't Happy With Where They Are

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    BYU went 11-2 a year ago and in 2008 they finished 10-3. So winning six games and winding up in the New Mexico Bowl isn't exactly a thrill for the school, especially seeing how it has been a rough season in Cougar Town--not the TV show.

    The Cougars were a made field goal away from upsetting at the time No. 20 Utah, which could have landed them in a better bowl. Regardless of what bowl BYU is in, this season has been a disappointment for a school that has grown accustomed to success.

UTEP Slumped To The Finish Line

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    UTEP started out of the gate fast winning five of their first six games and started out 2-1 in conference play. The fast start came to a crashing halt when the Miners took on the meat of their schedule, which resulted in them finishing the season out 1-5 to bring them to 6-6 overall.

    Which UTEP team will show up against BYU the one we saw the first half of the season or the second half? That's the million dollar question.

BYU Finished Strong

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    Despite a very disappointing start to the Cougars season--which saw them lose four straight games by double digits--they finished strong.

    BYU turned their season around with a close win over Wyoming and they cruised to three straight blowout wins after that. The Cougars lost by one on the road to Utah and as mentioned earlier they were a made field goal away from winning, but the Utes blocked the kick.

Jake Heaps Is Key For Cougars

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    Through the freshman quarterback's first seven games he threw just one TD to six interceptions. In the Cougars final five games Heaps tossed 10 TD's to just two INT's and looked much more comfortable in the pocket than earlier in the season.

    It's been an up and down season for the young QB and it will take an efficient game from him in order for the Cougars to come away victorious.

Trevor Vittatoe Needs To Play Smart

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    When the Miners have come away with a win Vittatoe has played smart efficient football tossing 14 TD's to just two INT's. In losses the QB has thrown eight INT's compared to just five TD's.

    Vittatoe will be facing a BYU defense that is giving up just 21.4 points per game, which puts them at 32nd in the country. It will be a tough task for the senior QB in the biggest game of his college career.

Former WAC Rivals

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    The two schools were once rivals when they played in the WAC, although it was a one-sided rival. BYU went 27-8 when they both were in the same conference and the last time they met was in 1998.

    While players and coaches have changed throughout the years the players who are with the schools now will renew the rivalry even if it is for only one game.

BYU Will Give Miners Heavy Dose Of J.J. DiLuigi

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    The Miners' defense hasn't had success against good offenses this season and while the Cougars' offense hasn't been as explosive as it has in the past they still have junior DiLuigi in the backfield. 

    DiLuigi finished with 819 yards on the ground and also had 422 yards receiving to lead the Cougars in both categories. Expect BYU to lean heavy on DiLuigi early and often to help Heaps get in a groove.

UTEP Is Pass Happy

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    There's no secret what the Miners want to do when they get on the field. They want to put the ball in their senior QB's hands and ride his arm as far as it will take them. 

    Vittatoe's biggest problem has been accuracy throughout his career. This season he's completing just 54.5 percent of his passes, which ranks him outside of the top 100 in completion percentage.

    Nevertheless it won't stop UTEP from throwing the football where they've racked up 2,511 yards compared to the 1,794 yards they've accumulated on the ground.

Who Has the Edge?

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    The Cougars have the more talented team and have finished the season strong while the same cannot be said for the Miners. Despite having a true freshman QB BYU has started clicking at the right time.

    UTEP will want to send their four-year signal-caller out with a win and want to finish on a good note. They will have plenty to play for considering it's the Miners first taste of a bowl game since '05.

    Taking everything into consideration the edge has to go to the Cougars who have played so much better than the Miners towards the end of the season.

    BYU may not be happy to be in the New Mexico Bowl, but they are staring at a losing season if they cannot overcome UTEP something that the players will take great pride in avoiding.

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