New Mexico State (2-6, 1-3) v Arkansas State (4-4, 4-0)
Saturday, November 12th, 2:00 PM CST at Centennial Bank Stadium
You Can Watch This Game On: ESPN3
Wagering (if you’re in to that, you soulless savage): -20 Red Wolves, 12.4% FPI Aggies
Many moons ago, New Mexico State and Arkansas State were bitter foes in an upstart conference called (rather brazenly) The Big West, who at one time boasted the membership of some pretty cool programs: Boise State, UNLV, Louisiana Tech, Northern Illinois and San Diego State are all former Bigs. Sadly, the Big West dissolved, but the Red Wolves and Aggies were somehow reunited over time in the Sun Belt – only for New Mexico State to be ingloriously booted after 2017. The hate was not meant to be.
But we’ll always have the past! Saturday marks the 11th meeting between New Mexico State and Arkansas State, with the Red Wolves winning all two Sun Belt conference meetings. But the Aggies have a 6-4 series advantage, and there’s nothing more that Doug Martin would like to do (we assume) than teach the Sun Belt champions a lesson in manners. It’s on, Former Big Buddy!
When Last These Titans Met
It wasn’t pretty for the Aggies. The Red Wolves rang up more than 600 yards of offense to trounce New Mexico State in Las Cruces 52-28. Larry Rose III was held to zero touchdowns on 106 yards rushing, and the Red Wolves monster defense picked off three passes, including one for a touchdown. (Note: all three defenders return for Saturday night’s matchup.)
What’s going on, New Mexico State?
The Aggies started the year with a sad 38-22 loss to UTEP, but then rebounded with a brilliant 32-31 win over New Mexico, whom they hadn’t defeated since 2011. What’s amusing about that victory is that the Aggies rank among the nation’s worst for run defense (120th) while the Lobos rank #1. (Still, New Mexico netted 221 ground yards on New Mexico St.) Since that glorious victory, the Aggies are 1-5 with a 37-31 home win over struggling Louisiana. What’s the problem?
Well, not having a 100% Larry Rose III is a problem. Rose 3 missed the first three games of the season with a sports hernia (much worse than my desk hernia), contributing to an ineffective ground game that ranks a disappointing 104th in the nation. The defense is another concern. Surrendering 505 yards a contest, the Aggies’ 123rd ranked defense isn’t doing signal caller Tyler Rogers and the NMS offense any favors. The Aggies give up a staggering 43 points a game, which is too many for the nation’s 53rd ranked offense to overcome.
How’s it hanging, Red Wolves?
After enduring a super-sorry out-of-conference experience, the Red Wolves are back to ruling the Sun Belt, hoping to make the Aggies victory #5 on the year. Like clockwork, the Red Wolves offense, defense and even special teams improved once conference play began, led by a defense that has forced eight turnovers during its four-game win streak. The “monster defense” is back to terrorize the Sun Belt, but the offense? Eh, not so much.
With the exception of brutalizing ULM’s 118th ranked defense for 51 points, the Red Wolves offense has been frighteningly tame. A-State managed only 7 offensive points against South Alabama and 2 end zone scores against Georgia State. Granted, the Jags and Panthers are two of the conferences better defensive squads, but Blake Anderson’s offensive unit needs to muster more magic if the Red Wolves are going to repeat as conference champs.
Aggie to Eyeball: Larry Rose III, RB
The preseason Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year missed the first quarter of the season due to hernia. But Rose 3 is poised to shatter Aggies legend Denvis Manns’ 4,692 career rushing yards. The junior running back hasn’t broken 100 yards in New Mexico State’s last three games, but Rose 3 ran for 89 yards against Texas A&M. It’s only a (short) matter of time before Rose 3 finds a defensive line to torch.
Wolf to Watch: Blaise Taylor, CB/PR
Last year’s meeting was a banner day for Taylor, who recorded an INT and ran a punt in for a 73-yard score. Weirdly, the 5’9″ senior is coming off a INT and a 68-yard scoring return against Georgia State last week (earning him Special Teams Player of the Week from the SBC). Taylor is a fearless playmaker who takes big risks, and NMS this season has already surrendered four punt returns for TDs. Look for Blaise to stay hot versus the Aggies.
Doug Martin is not overly impressed
In March, the Sun Belt decided that it was just too good for New Mexico State, and unceremoniously declined to renew its membership after 2017. It’s not surprising that Aggies head coach Doug Martin isn’t too lavish with the praise for the conference or its incumbent champion (emphasis mine):
“I think they are a solid team. I don’t think they will overwhelm anyone talent wise, like anyone in the Sun Belt, but they are solid and you have to go beat them and not wait for them to beat themselves.”
That’s a solid burn!
Spikeball is sorry for crippling Blake Anderson
Red Wolves head coach Blake Anderson appeared on the sideline against ULM wearing a compression cast on his leg thanks to an over-aggressive game of Spikeball with his staff. It seems the makers of Spikeball felt Anderson’s pain and offered a gesture of healing.
Way to make good, Spikeball.
Red Wolves are streaking
Arkansas State’s 13-game in-conference win streak is the 4th longest in the nation.
Aggies come at you fast, yo!
Rodney Butler, senior linebacker, leads the nation in total tackles with 113 (14.1/game).
Hey, how about telling us who’s gonna win, okay?
The Red Wolves streak of 13 conference wins in a row began with a 68-35 win over New Mexico State to end the 2014 regular season. The Aggies have a decent offense, led by senior signal caller Tyler Rogers and his 2,100 yards passing. But the defense looks too much like the Warhawks’, and while the Red Wolves may not be lighting up the scoreboard, it should have no problem finding the endzone again and again and again against the Aggies.