New Mexico State's dominant upset over Auburn was the story of week 12. The Aggies notched their first Power Five win since a 2011 victory over Minnesota and their second Power Five win since 1999. The Aggies have nine wins for the first time since the Eisenhower presidency and could eclipse the 10-win mark for only the second time ever.
Describing Jerry Kill's turnaround at New Mexico State as miraculous would be an understatement. Las Cruces was the Doldrums of College Football. The Aggies went 57-years without experience the glory of bowl season. Now, they are on the verge of winning a conference that was once the launchpad to the Power Five/Six.
New Mexico State has two games remaining and a shot at their first conference championship since 1960. Naturally, the topic of bowl games surrounds an all-time season like this. Is New Mexico State's resume enough to grant them a Power Five competitor in a bowl game?
For starters, New Mexico State has never appeared in the New Mexico Bowl. It seems obvious to place New Mexico State three hours north for bowl season. The fun begins in discussing opponents.
While the Mountain West usually opposes Conference USA in the New Mexico Bowl, ESPN can shuffle tie-ins to create a marketable matchup for TV. For instance, ESPN arranged a 1980 Holiday Bowl rematch in last year's New Mexico Bowl between independent BYU and SMU out of the AAC.
Texas Tech is a logical choice for the New Mexico Bowl. With a 6-5 record, the Red Raiders will slide to the bottom of the Big 12's bowl selection order. Including the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six, the Big 12 has eight bowl tie-ins for the 14 schools. The conference may have multiple teams in play for at-large spots in other bowls. The Big 12 could finish with 11 out of 14 schools reaching bowl eligibility.
Texas Tech is only a five-hour drive from Albuquerque. Nevertheless, the Red Raiders have never appeared in the New Mexico Bowl. The Red Raiders have visited Albuquerque frequently in the past. The New Mexico Lobos and Texas Tech were longtime Border Conference rivals, with 45 meetings in the series. However, Texas Tech has not played in Albuquerque since 2011.
A Texas Tech-New Mexico State matchup could bring the largest New Mexico Bowl crowd for a game not featuring hometown UNM. Texas Tech would be New Mexico State's first Power Five bowl opponent. Both fanbases are manageable driving distances from the Duke City. It is also a rare matchup. The last time the Aggies played the Red Raiders, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was two months old. The two schools have only four meetings with one another despite being Border Conference cohorts for 25 years.
The Aggies may need to win out to make this possibility a reality. Power Five versus Group of Five bowl games are uncommon in bowl season. Last season, only five of the 42 bowls pitted the Group of Five against the Power Five. Even with a win against Auburn, New Mexico State may need to finish 11-3 for ESPN to deem them worthy of a Power Five opponent in one of their bowls.
New Mexico State's best season in 62 years deserves to end in spectacular fashion. A game against Texas Tech provides regional thrill and a remarkable Cinderella storyline.