Today we begin a look at each of the Pac-12’s opponents during the bowl season. We start with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and will do one a day through next Friday.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Albuquerque, N.M., Dec. 21, 11 a.m. PT, ESPN
Washington State (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-6)
Coach: Jim McElwain (second year)
Record: 7-6, 5-3 Mountain West
Combined opponents’ record: 62-95 (.394)
Common opponents: None, though Colorado State did lose to Colorado in the season opener.
Leading passer: Garrett Grayson, 266-428 (62.2) for 3,327 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Leading rusher: Kapri Bibbs, 254-1,572 (6.2 yards per carry), 28 touchdowns.
Leading receiver: Rashard Higgins, 64-795, six touchdowns.
What to know: Colorado State is bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. The Rams were worried they might be the odd men out of the Mountain West, which had seven bowl-eligible teams and six contracted agreements. In a six degrees of Kevin Bacon turn of events, it was the San Jose State Spartans who were left out. That’s Mike MacIntyre’s former team, and he picked up his first win as Colorado’s coach by beating the Rams in the season opener. So it all comes full circle.
Once regulars in the postseason under Sonny Lubick -- when they went to nine bowl games in a 12-season stretch -- the Rams hit a postseason dry spell.
Their resume isn’t particularly sparkling, but it’s hard to ignore Bibbs’ numbers. They only played one ranked team this season and it was No. 1 Alabama. And they lost 31-6. Their marquee win is probably a 38-17 win at home over Nevada. And they should be plenty familiar with Albuquerque, having won there on Nov. 16 when they topped New Mexico 66-42.
Key matchup: Stopping Bibbs has to be the top priority. The last time he was in New Mexico he rushed for 291 yards and six touchdowns. He leads the nation in rushing touchdowns and is top 10 in rushing yards and top 15 in carries. That puts the pressure on the Washington State front seven, which has yielded 22 rushing touchdowns and allows 184 rushing yards per game. But playing in the Pac-12, the Cougars are no strangers to elite backs. They gave up 132 yards and a touchdown to Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and 200 yards and a score to Washington's Bishop Sankey. Both are Doak Walker finalists.