College football: BYU going to New Mexico Bowl, likely to face UTEP
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The BYU Cougars will return to a familiar place to play in their sixth straight bowl game.

No, not Las Vegas.

BYU accepted an invitation Wednesday to play in the fifth annual New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 18 in Albuquerque, where it will likely meet Texas-El Paso. The Miners didn't officially accept a bid, but several media outlets in Texas reported Wednesday night that the matchup of former WAC rivals was set and will be announced as early as today.

The first bowl game of the season will begin at noon MST at University Stadium, where BYU has played New Mexico every other year for the past several decades.

It will be televised by ESPN.

"We are anxious to participate in the New Mexico Bowl and to be playing in the opening bowl game of the year," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We look forward to the opportunity to continue to improve our team and build for the future."

UTEP is coached by Mike Price, the former Weber State coach, and is a member of Conference USA.

Mendenhall said BYU is thankful to be playing in any bowl after its 1-4 start, and declined last week to talk about the kind of opponent he would like to face. The Cougars won five of their final seven games to finish the regular season 6-6.

"I'm impressed how our football team turned the season around after a slow start," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "We are very excited to be playing in the New Mexico Bowl. I am happy for our seniors who fought hard to keep our bowl streak alive."

It will be the first time in six years that the Cougars will not play in the Las Vegas Bowl, which invited Utah on Wednesday.

We are excited to welcome BYU to the New Mexico Bowl," said the bowl's executive director, Jeff Siembieda. "I have a strong respect for the Cougars' program, its proud tradition and passionate fans. Combine that with the history that BYU has here in New Mexico and I am very happy that they will be representing the Mountain West Conference in this years' game." 

It will be BYU's 29th bowl appearance. The Cougars have won three of their last four bowl games.

A Mountain West Conference team — New Mexico, Colorado State, then Wyoming — has won the last three New Mexico Bowls.

drew@sltrib.comTwitter: @drewjay —

New Mexico Bowl

P Dec. 18, noon

TV • ESPN

BYU vs. TBD