It’s the day after Christmas. You opened your gifts, or even received a lump of coal (we won’t judge if you were on the naughty list). You’re also recovering from all the food and drinks you consumed. Cookies, candy, egg nog and the big Christmas feast. Yet, you’re still feeling empty inside. Something is still missing for this holiday season.
What’s better than an afternoon bowl game, let alone, the only bowl game for the day?
Indeed, the only bowl game that is happening on December 26th is the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field, as the resurgent Bowling Green Falcons take on FBS independent New Mexico State Aggies look to pick up a seventh win and some positive momentum to continue turning their programs around.
- Time and Date: Monday, December 26th at 2:30 p.m.
- Network: ESPN
- Location: Ford Field — Detroit, Michigan
- Spread: BG (-3.5), per DraftKings
- Over/under: 48, per DraftKings
- NMSU money line: +140, per DraftKings
- BG money line: -165, per DraftKings
- All-time series: First ever meeting
- NMSU last bowl: 2017 Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl, 26-20 win over Utah State
- BG last bowl: 2015 GoDaddy Bowl, 58-27 loss to Georgia Southern
- 2021 Quick Lane Bowl Matchup: Western Michigan 52 — Nevada 24
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details
The Aggies in Review
New Mexico State was recently seen as a bottom of the barrel FBS team, putting up an 8-30 record since the start of the 2018 season. 2022 was a different year in Las Cruces with first year head coach Jerry Kill at the helm.
Jerry Kill, most known for being the head coach at Minnesota from 2011-15, is no stranger to MACtion, having previously been the head coach of Northern Illinois from 2008-10. During that time, he led the Huskies to three bowl games, a 2010 MAC Championship appearance, and wins over Purdue and Minnesota. Kill led the Aggies to a 6-6 record this season, their best record since 2017.
New Mexico State, being an FBS Independent, always seems to play tough opponents, with two of their first four games being against Minnesota and Wisconsin. Through six games they were 1-5, that one win coming against Hawai’i. The team started to click, winning four of their next five contests to bring their record up to 5-6.
The Aggies had to play a waiting game, though. After the dominant 49-14 win at Liberty, they sat at 5-6 with bowl hopes hanging by a thread. They were not able to find an FBS opponent to compete for bowl eligibility. NMSU applied for a hardship waiver, and the NCAA accepted the waiver which made the Aggies bowl eligible for the first time since the 2017 season. New Mexico State played FCS opponent Valparaiso for a final tune-up game to close out the regular season.
This Aggies football team is obviously going to rely on the play of their offense, especially junior quarterback Diego Pavia. While splitting production with freshman Gavin Frakes, Pavia’s production after the cancelled San Jose State game helped get the Aggies to where they are now. Pavia has thrown for 1,283 yards (117th in FBS) and 11 touchdowns (T-93rd in FBS), while completing 52.2 percent of his passes. Pavia has shown that he can use his legs as well.
The rushing attack has been decent. Averaging 154.9 yards/game (64th in FBS), the Aggies feature Star Thomas with 477 yards and five TDs. Pavia is the second leading rusher for the Aggies with 443 yards and six rushing touchdowns.
The defense only gives up an average of 339.5 yards/game (34th in FBS). They’ve also had 27 sacks (T-53rd in FBS), six interceptions (T-109th in FBS), and a turnover margin of -6 (T-106th in FBS). What NMSU lacks in turnovers, they make up for in allowing fewer average yards per game.
Overall, New Mexico State is looking to be a sneaky team heading into the Quick Lane Bowl. Is their team indicative of that 6-6 record? Will Pavia torch the Falcons like he did Liberty? How will this game give them momentum for joining Conference USA next year? Saturday will answer most, if not all, of those questions.
The Falcons in Review
Bowling Green, like New Mexico State, was seen as a bottom of the barrel FBS team.
The Falcons have struggled for relevance for the last six seasons. From 2016, the Falcons never put up more than four wins per season, going 13-40 through this time. This season, the Falcons made a shock divisional run, eventually finishing 6-6 to qualify for the postseason.
The Falcons started with a bang at UCLA, going up 17-7 before UCLA ended up winning 45-17. BG then opened the home slate against FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky, losing a 7 OT thriller 59-57. After a homecoming win against Marshall, and a lopsided loss at Mississippi State (rest in peace, Coach Leach), BG would start MAC play. After a close win at Akron, Buffalo trampled the Falcons which led to a 1-1 start in conference. BG then went on a three-game winning streak with a close win against Miami, a convincing win at Central Michigan, and a close win against Western Michigan. Bowling Green was embarrassed by Kent State at home, had to grind out a win at Toledo, and finished flat at Ohio. BG finished 5-3 in the MAC, and 6-6 overall.
The offense will need to step up, as it seems to have been inconsistent all year. It all starts with Matt McDonald. There was some speculation that he would seek another year of eligibility from the NCAA. However, on December 14th, it was confirmed that McDonald will be suiting up for the Falcons for the final time. “Yeah, my last college game, definitely want to end it with a win.” McDonald said in the post-practice presser “... So I want to bring a bowl game victory back to this school.”
McDonald definitely has been playing some of his best football in his final year. Throwing for 2,639 yards (53rd in FBS) and 22 touchdowns (T-31st in FBS), this year compared to last year is night and day for the quarterback from Newport Beach, California.
Rushing was destined to take a hit after the news of lead back Terion Stewart taking the season off hit the press. Doing the majority of production was Jaison Patterson with 560 yards. The Falcons brewed up 8 rushing touchdowns all year, 4 of those from star freshman TE Harold Fannin, Jr. (who also had 4 receiving touchdowns.) The Falcons rushed for 1,210 yards which is 11th worst in the FBS. Even though this year was a step back for the unit by 18 yards, Patterson was the first 500+ yard rusher since Bryson Denley and Davon Jones in 2019.
Receiving production saw former Alabama A&M Bulldog Odieu Hiliare produce 704 receiving yards and six touchdowns to lead the team. Big target Tyrone Broden, Jr. (who stands at six-foot-seven) also hauled in six touchdowns, yet only had 473 receiving yards. Those two will need to perform since the Falcons are more successful in the pass game. They also have Harold Fannin, Jr., Taron Keith, and Austin Osborne (still fresh off injury recovery). Not to mention the Falcons still have All-MAC Second Team tight end Christian Sims.
The Bowling Green defense has played better than some numbers indicate, giving up an average of 420.7 yards/game (105th in FBS. BG came up with 9 interceptions (T-73 in FBS), led by Chris Bacon and Trent Simms with two each. But the real threat for Bowling Green is at the grocery, as the Falcons checked out with 37 sacks as a team (tied for ninth-best in the NCAA), led by Karl Brooks, who bagged 10 on his own, tying him with Alabama’s Will Anderson for seventh in the FBS. The D-Line has made some serious strides in getting to the opposing QB. Also the linebackers made some serious improvements with Darren Anders leading the corps.
What makes Bowling Green intriguing is their special teams. It felt like every game, special teams did something spectacular. They came up with four blocked punts (T-4th in FBS, T-9th in blocked kicks overall) in the 2022 campaign, with PaSean Wimberly notching an NCAA-leading three kick blocks, making a huge impact after being put on scholarship a week before the UCLA game. Don’t be surprised if BG can make more special teams noise before the end of the game.
Coach Loeffler is undoubtedly proud of his team, but he knows there’s still work to do before the start of 2023.
“We want to make sure our seniors go out on a positive manner, we didn’t, we laid an egg in the Ohio game,” Loeffler said during a post-practice presser last week. “... [W]e want to make sure that the people who helped dig us out of the hole, go out winners.” Momentum is the biggest thing for Bowling Green for the future, to make sure they don’t see any more stretches like 2016-2021.
Being bowl eligible for the first time since 2015, and back to playing December football, Bowling Green has definitely made progress on their return to MAC contention. Can BG win the Quick Lane Bowl, and continue to move the needle in the right direction for 2023 and beyond? Saturday will hopefully provide some insight for the Falcon players, staff, students, and alumni who were waiting to see some decent football in Bowling Green, Ohio.