Two high-powered offenses are returning from bowl hiatuses to square of in Albuquerque, as the Washington State Cougars will take on the Colorado State Rams.
For Washington State, it's their first bowl game in 10 years, since the 2003 Holiday Bowl under first-year coach Bill Doba. The Cougars missed the postseason for the rest of Doba's reign and the entirety of Paul Wulff's, but here they are under second-year head coach Mike Leach. Washington State runs Leach's spread attack, and is ranked fourth in the nation in passing offense. They pulled off three dramatic Pac-12 wins to get here (and one not-so dramatic Pac-12 win against Cal) -- defeating a ranked USC team in September before late-season wins over Arizona and Utah clinched their bowl eligibility.
The Rams are also bowling under a second-year head coach after a drought -- theirs was significantly shorter, however, as their last appearance came in this same New Mexico Bowl in 2008. Head coach Jim McElwain came to Colorado State from Alabama, and has instilled a strong offensive gameplan with one of the most effective quarterback-running back duos in the country (more on that later). The Rams do not have a single win against a team with a winning record -- with the Cougars at 6-6, that won't change no matter the result.
Rankings and records: Neither team is ranked. The Cougars went 6-6 this season, with a 4-5 conference record good for fifth place in the North Division. Colorado State had a 7-6 record (playing at Hawaii allows you to have an extra regular season game), with a 5-3 conference record placing them at third in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West. This will be the first matchup between the two schools.
Vegas: Washington State is a 3.5-point favorite, with an over/under of 64.5 points. OddsShark has more.
Weather: Mid-40s and partly cloudy.
Three names to know
Connor Halliday. Leach's offense relies heavily on its quarterback, and the junior from Spokane is among the nation's leaders in passing. He's thrown for 4,187 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, but has also tossed 21 interceptions.
Garrett Grayson. Grayson's stats aren't as gaudy as Halliday's, but he's been more efficient -- the junior is averaging nearly eight yards per pass attempt and has 21 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
Kapri Bibbs. A JuCo transfer, the sophomore leads the nation in rushing touchdowns, with 28.
Two things at stake
Washington State plays in perhaps the toughest conference in college football, and a loss here would hurt that reputation.
A win over a power-conference team would show that Colorado State is for real, setting up a run at the Mountain West title next season.
How to witness
TV: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
Radio: Here's a list of Washington State affiliates. For Colorado State, try 105.5 or 90.5 FM.
Online streaming: WatchESPN.
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Stadium: University Stadium (39,224)
Last year's score: Arizona 49, Nevada 48
Last year's attendance: 24,610
Last year's TV rating: 1.8 (2.6 million viewers)
Last year's payout for each school: $750,000
Team with the most all-time appearances: New Mexico, Fresno State, Wyoming and Nevada are tied with two appearances apiece.
Team with the most all-time wins: New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona, BYU, Colorado State, San Jose State, Temple are tied with one win apiece.