Bob Davie wins first bowl game as New Mexico wins New Mexico Bowl

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The 2016 bowl season started off by checking off a number of firsts in the New Mexico Bowl. UTSA (6-7) played in its first bowl game and New Mexico (9-4) head coach Bob Davie win his first bowl game as a head coach. It had been a long time coming for Davie, who saw his Lobos come up on the short end of the scoreboard in the New Mexico Bowl a year ago. New Mexico held off UTSA, 23-20, in the first bowl game of the season.

New Mexico running backs Richard McQuarley (game MVP) and Teriyon Gipson each scored touchdowns on the ground as New Mexico opted to play it safe with a run-focused offense in windy conditions. UTSA cut a 16-6 lead to three points with a fourth-quarter touchdown run by Trevor Stevens, but the Lobos ran the ball down the field on the ensuing possession to pad their lead with a second touchdown run by McQuarley.

Davie had been 0-4 in bowl games prior to this season, including three bowl losses during his time as head coach at Notre Dame from 1997 through 2001. Davie returned to the sidelines in 2012 with New Mexico following a good run in the broadcast booth. After three losing seasons, Davie turned things around to turn in a seven-win season in 2015 and earning a trip to the New Mexico Bowl. With a record of 8-4 this season, the Lobos returned to the bowl game having taken one step forward. The next step came today to pick up the ninth win of the season and the first bowl win since the 2007 season, also in the New Mexico Bowl.

So what’s next for New Mexico? The bar continues to be raised for the program under Davie. The 2017 season will see a challenging road schedule with conference games on the road against Boise State, San Diego State and Wyoming and non-conference contests against Tulsa and Texas A&M. New Mexico’s 2017 season kicks off on September 2 at home against Abilene Christian.

UTSA will look to build off their first bowl experience as well. The Roadrunners get their 2017 season started on September 2, 2017 against Houston. It was just a couple of years ago when UTSA embarrassed Houston in their brand new stadium, 27-7. This time, Houston travels to San Antonio.

Both UTSA and New Mexico appear to be heading in a positive direction.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.