Saturday’s college bowl previews
Texas-San Antonio (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)
Kickoff: 2 p.m., University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.
Line: New Mexico by 7
Series record: Split 1-1
What’s at stake: UTSA is making its first bowl appearance in its program’s six-year history. The Roadrunners football program was launched only six years ago and the team won five of its last eight to finish second in Conference USA’s West Division under first-year coach Frank Wilson. New Mexico is 3-8-1 in bowl games and plays at home for the second straight year.
Key matchup: UTSA’s pro-style offense versus New Mexico’s triple-option threat. The Roadrunners are led by quarterback Dalton Sturm, who threw for 2,052 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. UTSA also has depth among its speedy receiving corps. The Lobos lead the nation in rushing yards per game with 360.9 and racked up 4,331 rushing yards, the most in school history. New Mexico has two running backs with 1,000 rushing yards each and rarely turns the ball over.
Players to watch:UTSA — Junior wide receiver Josh Stewart leads the Roadrunners with 36 receptions for the school’s single-season record of 682 receiving yards. Defensive lineman Marcus Davenport has anchored the UTSA defense with 6.5 sacks and 62 tackles, 10 for a loss. New Mexico — Running back Teriyon Gipson has 131 carries for 1,209 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 9.23 yards per carry average leads the FBS. Fellow running back Tyrone Owens is second with 1,084 rushing yards. Both led the Mountain West in rushing yards.
Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
Line: Houston by 4
Series record: Houston leads 2-0.
What’s at stake: Houston can win 10 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history while also starting the Major Applewhite era on a positive note, as the offensive coordinator and former Texas quarterback was promoted to replace Austin-bound Tom Herman as head coach. A victory by SDSU would tie the school record for wins, first set in 1969 under coach Don Coryell and matched last season by Rocky Long.
Key matchup: Houston’s run defense vs. SDSU’s tailback tandem of Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny. In their two marquee games, the Cougars held Oklahoma to 2.7 yards per carry and Louisville to 2.5, but the defensive front was decidedly less effective in their three losses and allowed at least 146 yards rushing in those games. If Pumphrey and Penny can get going early, a duo that rushed for 27 touchdowns this season can not only wear down Houston but keep star quarterback Greg Ward Jr. off the field at the same time.
Players to watch: Houston — DL Ed Oliver more than lived up to his lofty billing as a five-star recruit, immediately dissecting the Sooners for two sacks in his collegiate debut. Finishing his freshman season with 19.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles, Oliver could be a one-man wrecking machine in the AAC for years to come. SDSU — Pumphrey couldn’t get traction with Heisman voters despite rushing for 2,018 yards this season, but could finish his career as the most prolific runner in FBS history. Pumphrey needs 108 yards to break former Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne’s record of 6,397 yards rushing. Pumphrey has run for at least that many yards 10 times this season and 30 overall in his outstanding college career.
Appalachian State (9-3) vs. Toledo (9-3)
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m., Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
Line: Pick ’em
Series record: First meeting.
What’s at stake: Both teams are trying to reach 10 wins and extend bowl success. Appalachian State won this game last year in its first bowl game, while the Rockets are 11-4 in bowl games.
Key matchup: Appalachian State’s defense versus Toledo’s offense. The Mountaineers rank seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing 17 points per game. The Rockets are averaging 529.8 yards — which would be a school season mark — and 38.8 points.
Players to watch:Appalachian State — RB Jalin Moore has run for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns. Backfield mate Marcus Cox has 872 rushing yards and eight TDs.
Toledo — QB Logan Woodside leads the nation with 43 touchdown passes. He has thrown for 3,882 yards with only nine interceptions, while completing 69.1 percent of his passes.
Central Florida (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m., Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Line: UCF by 6 1/2
Series record: UCF leads 1-0
What’s at stake: The Knights and the Red Wolves are both on the rebound from adversity. UCF is coming off an 0-12 campaign in 2015, while the Red Wolves turned their season around after starting out 0-4. Both teams are looking for wins to further signify their respective programs are on the right track.
Key matchup: Arkansas State’s defense vs. UCF QB McKenzie Milton. The Red Wolves have an aggressive defensive front that gets after the quarterback, led by linebacker Chris Odom and defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones. The two have combined for 24 of the team’s 37 sacks on the season. That could spell trouble for Milton, who is sometimes prone to freshman mistakes when facing great pressure. Milton will need time from his offensive line to be effective in the passing game.
Players to watch:UCF — CB Shaquill Griffin. The senior has been the strongest and most consistent presence in the Knights’ secondary this season. Griffin has four interceptions on the season and his 12 pass breakups rank 12th in the nation and led the AAC. He ranks fifth in UCF history with 33 career pass breakups.
Arkansas State — TE Blake Mack. The junior made the transition this season from wide receiver and the result has been his most productive campaign yet. Mack has been Justice Hansen’s top target this season, catching 33 passes for 585 yards and three touchdowns. He is averaging 17.7 yards per reception.
Southern Mississippi (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6)
Kickoff: 9 p.m., Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Line: Southern Miss by 6
Series record: Southern Miss leads 39-11-1.
What’s at stake: Both teams had to win their final regular-season games to get a postseason bid and don’t want to follow that with a loss that would doom them to end their 2016 campaign with a losing record. Regional bragging rights are in play as well.
Key matchup: The ULL ground game, led by senior running back Elijah McGuire, vs. a Southern Miss defense that ranks in the top five nationally in terms of fewest first downs allowed and percentage of third-down stops.
Players to watch:Southern Miss — QB Nick Mullens is the Golden Eagles all-time passing leader with 11,648 yards. He is healthy after playing with an injured thumb earlier this season and then missing a couple late-season games with a concussion.
Louisiana-Lafayette — McGuire, a senior who has rushed for more than 1,028 yards and seven TDs this season, has 4,213 yards rushing for his career, along with 1,376 career yards receiving.