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Three Questions Leading into the 2021 New Mexico Bowl

Uncertainty abounds as the Miners and Bulldogs prepare to battle in Albuquerque

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 UTEP at Boise State Photo by Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shopping mall parking lots are packed, there’s a chill in the air, and attendance around the office is looking lighter by the day. That’s right folks, bowl season is almost here.

We’ve got a packed slate of Underdog bowls to look forward to in the opening weekend of the bowl window, one of which is the intriguing matchup between Fresno State and the UTEP Miners. Both programs had tremendously successful seasons and will be rewarded with a national TV audience on December 18th.

While we know the Miners will bring a physical run game to match Fresno State’s passing attack, there are several major questions lingering around this bowl that bettors will want to keep in mind before placing a wager on the New Mexico Bowl.

According to DraftKings, UTEP is currently an 11 point underdog with the over/under set at 49.5 points.*

*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Who will handle the stage better?

While the Bulldogs haven’t been to a bowl game in two seasons, the Miners haven’t been to a bowl since 2014. UTEP hasn’t won a bowl game since Lyndon B. Johnson stood in the Oval Office. Will the Miners come out energized and motivated for this roster’s first bowl game, or will anxious energy give way to shaky play? On the flip side, how will Fresno State react to their head coach departing for the Washington job? Do the Bulldogs channel their anger into physical domination, or will the game feel meaningless under the direction of an interim head coach?

Will the Miners have a home field advantage?

Energized by the program’s highest win total since 2005, UTEP diehards will definitely be taking the four hour drive up I-25 to see the Miners play in Albuquerque. One would assume UTEP will greatly out-draw the Bulldogs given the relative proximity between campus and the bowl game, but will El Paso show out in full force to create a home game atmosphere for the Miners in Albuquerque?

Can we expect Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener to take the field?

When former Fresno State Head Coach Kalen DeBoer left Fresno to take the Washington job there was some speculation that he may take his quarterback with him. Haener did sign with Washington out of high school, after all. Since Haener had already transferred between Division I programs once before, a return to Seattle would have forced Haener to take a redshirt season.

Thankfully for the Bulldogs, the gutsy signal-caller has removed his name from the transfer portal following the announcement of Jeff Tedford as head coach. Haener and Tedford reportedly enjoy a strong relationship, and the two will have an opportunity to re-implement Tedford’s culture within the Fresno State program.

While Haener is expected back for the 2022 season, his status for the New Mexico Bowl is still unknown. Haener threw for nearly 4,000 yards this season so to say he would be a big loss for the Bulldogs’ offense wouldn’t even begin to do justice to Haener’s impact on the team.

Should Haener not return to the team until 2022, the Bulldogs will start either Logan Fife or Jaylen Henderson under center. The two freshmen have combined for one touchdown on 21 attempts this season.