The Utah State Aggies (10-2) are set to face off against the North Texas Mean Green (9-3) in the New Mexico Bowl. Kickoff is set for 2:00 EST on Saturday, December 15th at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, NM and will be televised on ESPN.
Oddsmakers opened this thing up with Utah State as a 11-point favorite, but that’s been bet down to single-digits and there’s a lot of different lines out there. I see the Aggies as low as a 7.5-point favorite and the Mean Green as big as a 9-point dog. The total for this game opened at 64.5 and is now at 66.5.
North Texas vs Utah State Vegas Game Odds & Betting Preview
The Mean Green came up short at their attempt to defend their C-USA West title, but did manage to match last years 9-wins. It wasn’t far off from a perfect season. North Texas blew a 21-6 lead in the 1st quarter of a 2-point loss to Louisiana Tech. They had a 28-0 lead in a 34-31 loss at ODU and a 21-10 advantage at the half in a 29-21 loss at UAB, who ended up winning the West and defeating Middle Tennessee in the title game.
North Texas head coach, Seth Littrell is a perfect 3 for 3 in getting his team to a bowl game, but they are still looking for their first bowl win since 2013. The Mean Green lost 38-31 as a 11-point dog to Army in the 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl and 50-30 to Troy as a 6-point dog in last year’s New Orleans Bowl.
The Aggies were also painfully close to playing in a conference championship game. Utah State’s only loss in Mountain West play was a costly one and it came in their very last game of the regular season. The Aggies were a perfect 7-0 in MWC play until they fell 33-24 at Boise State on Nov. 24. So while they finished with the same record as the Broncos on top the Mountain Division, Boise State won the tie-breaker for the right to play in the MWC title (lost to Fresno St in OT).
Utah State will be headed to their 5th bowl game in six years. They won’t be doing it with their head coach, as Matt Wells accepted the offer to become the new head coach at Texas Tech. While it might put them in a tough spot for the bowl game, the Aggies were able to replace Wells with former head coach Gary Anderson. Frank Maile will serve as the bridge from Wells to Anderson in the bowl game.
2018 New Mexico Bowl Free Pick & Betting Predictions: North Texas +9
I like the value here with North Texas. I not only think they are good enough to cover more than a touchdown spread, I think they can win this game outright. This isn’t a knock on Utah State, as I was really high on that team coming into the year. I just think these are two evenly matched teams.
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I also think North Texas might be the more motivated team in this one. I feel that more times than not, teams who suffer a devastating loss in their final game of the season, whether it be their regular-season finale or a title game, they have a really hard time getting excited about their bowl game. I think it’s that much harder for Utah State, given they are matched up against a team they are expected to beat rather easily.
As for the Mean Green, they have a chance here to do something no other team has done at North Texas in roughly 70 years, win 10 games in a single season. Not to mention the fact that they are still searching for that first bowl win under Littrell. Speaking of Littrell, he just turned down an offer to be the new head coach at Kansas State to stay with the program. I think that says a lot about how much he likes the team he has and you have to believe the players will want to show him he made the right decision to stick around.
Another big thing here for me is the North Texas quarterback. Junior Mason Fine is one of the best kept secrets in the country. Fine completed 65% of his 457 attempts for 3,734 yards with 27 touchdowns to a mere 5 interceptions. He threw for 4,052 yards with a 31-15 TD-INT ratio as a sophomore.
While Fine is a big reason for their success, he’s got some playmakers working alongside him. Running back DeAndre Torrey has just 942 yards, but is averaging 5.9 yards/carry and has 14 rushing touchdowns. Rico Bussey Jr. has hauled in 68 passes for 1,017 yards and 12 scores. Jalen Guyton has 50 receptions for 702 yards and 5 scores and Jaelon Darden has caught 46 for 567 and 4 scores.
I think the fact that the Mountain West is viewed as a much stronger conference than C-USA and the fact that Utah State nearly won at Michigan State in non-conference play, is a big reason why this line is so high. I get Arkansas was one of the worst teams in the SEC, but North Texas whooped them 44-17 in Fayetteville. Give me the Mean Green +9!