New Mexico Bowl
Sponsor: Gildan (GIL)
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Matchup: Washington State vs. Colorado State
Hey, we don't begrudge New Mexico its bowl. If anything, we agree with college football and ESPN on this one: You really should be watching this bowl.
It's the only nationally televised sporting event in New Mexico and it has lined up a great sports-centric sponsor in apparel-maker Gildan. It sponsors a charity run each year, its trophy is a piece of Zia Pueblo pottery that puts just about every other bowl trophy to shame -- including that crystal football that looks like grandma's holiday candy dish that they hand to the top team in the country.
So what are the downsides? For starters, it's saddled with an impossibly early Dec. 21 date that's only modestly favorable because the NFL refuses to use its December window for Saturday games. Secondly, it features Pac-12 and Mountain West Conference teams already suffering from a heavy dose of East Coast bias. Yes, we get it, Uncle Carl in Poughkeepsie, the time difference means the game is on later and cuts into your post-dinner stupor.
That's too bad, since those conferences and this game in particular regularly put on one of the best shows in the college bowl schedule. Last year's Arizona-New Mexico matchup ended in a 49-48 Arizona win thanks to two touchdowns in the last minute. Fresno State lost to Colorado State 40-35 in the Rams' last New Mexico Bowl appearance and returned in 2009 to have a double-overtime thriller turn into a crushing 35-28 loss. In 2010, BYU put up 52 points on UTEP on the way to a 52-24 win.
We don't know what's going on at the Albuquerque airport baggage claim, but college teams' entire defenses seem to get lost in the handling process.
It shouldn't be much different this year. Washington State (6-6) and Colorado State (7-6) are better teams than their records indicate and will likely be playing in much bigger bowls in the coming years. This bowl has seen attendance drop from 34,000 for its inaugural event in 2006 to just under 25,000 last year, but it tends to be tougher in years when New Mexico doesn't make the lineup. The fact is folks who didn't show up last year missed one of the most entertaining games of the college postseason. They shouldn't miss out again.