The game featured the New Mexico Lobos against the Arizona Wildcats. It was the 67th overall meeting between these teams, with Arizona leading the series 43–20–3 before this game (both had previously been in-conference rivals in the Border Conference and the Western Athletic Conference before Arizona joined the Pacific-10 Conference (now the Pac-12 Conference) and New Mexico joined the Mountain West. The last meeting between these two teams was in 2008, when the Lobos beat the Wildcats 36–28 in Albuquerque.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez had led the Wildcats to bowl appearances in each of his four seasons with the school. Overall, Rodriguez entered with a 4–5 bowl record as the head coach at Arizona (2–1), Michigan (0–1) and West Virginia (2–3).
This was the first bowl appearance for the Lobos under fourth-year head coach Bob Davie, who had three previous bowl appearances as the head coach at Notre Dame. UNM entered 3–7–1 all time in bowl games, with their last appearance being a win in the 2007 New Mexico Bowl. The Lobos play their home games at the New Mexico Bowl site – University Stadium – and had a 5–2 record in 2015 at home.