NCAA Football

New Mexico Bowl Preview: BYU vs. UTEP

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New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. UTEP

Saturday, December 18, 2010 2:00 PM ET ESPN

Laying the scene

In a battle of 6-6 squads, BYU and UTEP kick off the bowl season in the New Mexico Bowl where they will meet for the first time since 1998 when both were members in the WAC. BYU represents the Mountain West Conference, but will play as an independent beginning in 2011, while UTEP represents Conference USA. The Cougars hold the series lead at 28-7-1 and have won 25 of the last 27 meetings.

What BYU has to do to win

J.J. DiLuigi was one of the bright spots for the Cougars in 2010. The running back not only led the team in rushing with 819 yards and seven touchdowns, he led the team in receiving with 42 receptions for 422 yards. The Cougars will look to utilize DiLuigi early in this one, hoping to own the line of scrimmage to control the game. Despite the struggles early in the year to keep opponents from putting points on the board, the BYU defense has held its opponents to 21 points or less in five of their last six games with the exception of the loss to TCU.

What UTEP has to do to win

Find a way to disrupt the line of scrimmage. BYU will utilize DiLuigi early and often, but if the Miners find a way to stuff the run and create some kind of disruption in the backfield, they'll take a key step towards pulling off the upset. Problem is, the Miners rank 105th in the nation in sacks, averaging just 1.17 per game and recording 14 sacks all season and are third to last in the nation in tackles for loss. If the front seven don't step up, it could be a long day for the Miners. On offense, Kris Adams has been a bright spot and is a player to watch when the Miners have the ball. Success in the return game, where the Miners rank 11th in punt returns and 10th in kick returns, will also be a key.

The call

BYU. The Cougars haven't had the season they'd have liked to in their final year as part of the Mountain West Conference. BYU's season went downhill in a hurry with four straight losses after their opening week win. They were 2-5 following their October 16 loss to TCU, but they've won four of their last five games, losing their regular season finale to Utah. The Miners finished 1-5 after starting 5-1.

Player to Watch

Jake Heaps, quarterback for BYU.

Jake Heaps is the first freshmen quarterback ever to start a bowl game for BYU. Will he crumble under pressure? If any of his recent games are a clue to how he will play, then he should do just fine. Heaps didn't start out the season well, but he has turned it around of late. In his last five games, he has thrown for 1,076 yards with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. In essence, the freshman is in stride right now, and cannot be stopped. It's a lot to ask for a freshmen quarterback to lead his team to victory in a bowl game, but with his recent play it looks as though he has minimized his rookie mistakes. Keep your eye on him this week, there will be a lot of nerves, however he has the tools to lead his team to victory. - Danny Hobrock & Jared Levine

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

Email Danny at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at DannyHobrock

Jared is a Journalism and Sports Administration major at the University of Miami providing introspective, insight, information and opinion on the world of College Football.

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