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New Mexico Bowl breakdown: Colorado State vs. Washington State

Photo: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post/Getty Images

Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs (5) has racked up 1,572 rushing yards and 28 scores in 2013.

Colorado State (7-6) vs. Washington State (6-6)
Dec. 21, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

BOWL SCHEDULE: Matchups, dates for every 2013-14 pairing

Reason to watch: The first game of the 2013-14 bowl season promises to be a high-scoring one. Washington State's high-powered aerial attack -- the Cougars rank fourth nationally in passing yards per game (364.5) and first in attempts (58.2) -- should be able to exploit Colorado State's suspect pass defense, which has allowed an average of 7.9 yards per attempt (100th in the country). Expect the Rams to counter with tailback Kapri Bibbs, who has rushed for 1,572 yards and 28 touchdowns, totals that ranks second and eighth in the FBS, respectively. Washington State's rushing defense isn't exactly equipped to stop Bibbs; the Cougars have yielded an average of 4.43 yards per carry (80th in the country).

Keep an eye on: Bibbs. One of the most underappreciated offensive threats in the country, the 5-foot-11, 203-pounder notched at least three scores in seven of his final nine regular-season games. The last time he played at University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M., Bibbs rushed for 291 yards and six touchdowns in a 66-42 win over the Lobos on Nov. 16. A week earlier, he gashed Nevada for 312 yards and four scores. The redshirt sophomore may not approach such lofty totals against Washington State, but he will likely be the focal point of coach Jim McElwain's offensive game plan.

Did you know: Washington State played the most difficult schedule in the country in 2013, according to Jeff Sagarin's ratings. The Cougars played five teams ranked in the Top 25 and four ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. That includes a season-opening 31-24 loss to national championship participant Auburn, a game in which Washington State trailed by only four points entering the fourth quarter.

Final analysis: The Cougars haven't made a bowl game since they knocked off No. 5 Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. A decade later, Washington State has an excellent chance to capture another postseason victory. Quarterback Connor Halliday (4,187 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 21 interceptions) will look to evade pressure from Rams linebacker Shaquil Barrett (12 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss) while targeting leading receiver Gabe Marks (69 receptions, 770 yards, six touchdowns). The Cougars' defense will work to slow Bibbs and quarterback Garrett Grayson, who ranks among the nation's top 40 (7.8 yards per attempt) in passing.

The pick: Washington State 40, Colorado State 37

BURKE: Washington State's Deone Bucannon among top NFL prospects to watch in early bowls

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