* Who: UCLA vs. New Mexico.
* Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas.
* Time, TV: 4:30 p.m., ESPN.
* Records: UCLA 7-5, 4-3 Pacific-10; New Mexico 7-6, 5-2 Mountain West.
* Coaches: UCLA, Ed Kezirian; New Mexico, Rocky Long.
* Payout: $800,000 per team.
* Bowl History: UCLA is 11-11-1 in bowls, but has won just one of its last five (the Cotton Bowl following the 1997 season). New Mexico is 2-3-1, last winning the fondly remembered 1961 Aviation Bowl. The Lobos' only postseason appearance since then was the 1997 Insight.com Bowl.
The Bruins have had quite a time since the end of the regular season. Coach Bob Toledo was fired Dec. 9, the first Bruins coach to be fired in 38 years. To be fair, he never had much to work with by way of experience, as 22 freshmen played this season, including quarterback Drew Olson, who started four games. But four straight losses to rival Southern California, including a 52-21 disaster this season, proved the final straw for UCLA officials.
Karl Dorrell will lead the team next season, while interim coach Kezirian, who was the team's assistant director of academic services this season, will man the sideline today. To get an idea of what Kezirian brings to the table, Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers referred to his former position as "Towel Waver" in a column this month.
Long, the Mountain West coach of the year, was UCLA's defensive coordinator for two years before coming to New Mexico. He has done a remarkable job getting the Lobos to only their second bowl game in 41 years. But New Mexico appears to be a team on the rise -- it is the only squad in the country to increase its victory total every year since 1999.
Providing help on the field has been redshirt freshman running back DonTrell Moore, named Mountain West offensive newcomer of the year after rushing for 1,117 yards and 15 touchdowns. New Mexico needs to accomplish its offensive goals on the ground because it ranks 107th in the country in passing. Junior linebacker Billy Strother was named Mountain West defensive newcomer of the year for his 82-tackle, 3.5-sack season.
* Who: Tulane vs. Hawaii.
* Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu.
* Time, TV: 8 p.m., ESPN.
* Records: Tulane 7-5, 4-4 Conference USA; Hawaii 10-3, 7-1 Western Athletic Conference.
* Coaches: Tulane, Chris Scelfo; Hawaii, June Jones.
* Payout: $750,000 per team.
* Bowl History: Tulane is 3-6 in bowls, its last appearance a 41-27 win over BYU in the 1998 Liberty Bowl. Hawaii is 2-1, last appearing in a 23-17 win over Oregon State in the 1999 Oahu Classic.
Tulane received a mixed Christmas blessing with its selection to the Hawaii Bowl. Undoubtedly, the Green Wave is happy to be in the island paradise and play in a high-visibility television slot. But they would have preferred to stay at home (saving a whole lot of beads and playing in front of many more fans) for the Dec. 17 New Orleans Bowl had Cincinnati not earned that spot by winning its last game of the season. Cornerback Lynaris Elpheage ranked third in the country with eight interceptions and is the only player in NCAA history to have scored touchdowns on a kickoff return, punt return, fumble return, interception return and a rush during his career. Scelfo did a remarkable job getting Tulane to Hawaii after its embarrassing 14-10 loss to hapless Army on Nov. 16. The Green Wave responded with a win over bowl-bound Southern Miss the next week.
It must be nice to be Hawaii. You have a good season and get to stay at home -- a place where snow is a myth and cold is a setting on the air conditioning -- for your bowl game. It also must be something to have a loaded team. Quarterback Timmy Chang ranked third in the nation in total offense at 333.6 yards per game and fourth in completions per game at 25.8. But he also had accuracy problems, and his 22 interceptions tied him for the national lead with Temple's Mike McGann. Right guard Vince Manuwai (60 pancake blocks) is one of the nation's most unheralded players, but he will get some attention from the likes of Mel Kiper. Hawaii ranked third in total offense (500.8 yards per game) and eighth in scoring offense (36.5 points).
-- Matt Bonesteel