The conference independent Navy Midshipmen, who finished the regular season with a 9–2 record, accepted an invitation to play in the game on November 22, 2004. Eight days later, the 7–4 New Mexico Lobos agreed to fill the open spot reserved for a Mountain West Conference team. Leading up to the game, sports writers predicted that a major highlight of the contest would be the rushing offenses of Midshipmen head coach Paul Johnson and Lobos head coach Rocky Long; both teams ranked in the top rushing offenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Lobos also ranked as one of the nation's top rushing defenses.
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