New Mexico State Aggies (0-1) at New Mexico Lobos (1-0)
Location: Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
Time: 7:00 PM CST
TV: None, but this one will be available on Facebook Live via @WatchStadium
Line: New Mexico -7.5
History: New Mexico leads 70-32-5, NMSU won last year 32-31
I tell you what. If you had told me about six months ago that I would be sitting down on a fall Saturday night to watch a football game being broadcast on Facebook Live that is being played at a place called Dreamstyle Stadium, I would have told you that you should probably put the tainted weed back where you got it and walk your butt home.
But, here we are, so I guess I better preview the damn thing.
New Mexico Lobos
New Mexico has a long and storied history of being terrible at defense. Bill Connelly talked in his season preview about Bob Davie having so much success the past two seasons in spite of a defense that has never improved above “atrocious” but it goes so much further. In 2008 the Lobos finished the season 32nd in defensive S&P+, and they’ve finished outside the bottom 15 only twice in the eight seasons since – and outside the bottom 20 once.
They’re replacing a ton of production in terms of tackles, sacks and passes defensed, so this season’s best case scenario was bound to be only very marginal improvement – canceled out by the talent they didn’t have to replace from a very successful option offense. With most eyes watching to see if the defense craters enough to eliminate that offensive advantage.
Returns from week one against Abilene Christian were mixed. Sure they won handily by a 38-14 final and racked up 259 rushing yards. However, they also started a drive at the ACU 20 that ended in a field goal, lost two fumbles, allowed ACU to go 99 yards for a touchdown on their first drive, and surrendered three passes of 20+ yards, two of which went for touchdowns.
We’ll wait another week to see, but it sure looks like more of the same from Lamar Jordan and company.
New Mexico State Aggies
The Aggies looked a lot better in their opener against Arizona State than they had for most of 2016, but it still wasn’t enough for anything beyond a loss that wasn’t quite as close as the score. Tyler Rogers found a rhythm with a number of receivers, primarily Jaleel Scott, and after some early ugly hiccups found a nice rhythm – he went 4-for-9 for 13 yards and an INT in the first quarter, then 36-for-48 (75% completion) for 385 yards, 3 TDs, and an INT afterward.
Sure some of that came in relative garbage time, but it still matters in terms of establishing live-action rapport with your receiving corps. This was evidenced by the ridiculous catches from Conner Cramer and Scott on an initial touchdown drive that saw Rogers go 7-of-9 for 65 yards and complete passes to five different receivers.
The defense was the real star, though. They had a couple of weak moments, but touchdown passes of 60 and 53 yards were by far their biggest blemishes, and a team that recorded 31 sacks the last three seasons racked up seven in their opening game. That suggests a defensive improvement that could carry forward against lesser teams.
The Lobos looked like business as usual against their FCS competition, and are going to need to tighten up their turnovers and the back end of their defense if they don’t want this Aggie offense to light them ablaze. The Aggies, in turn, need to utilize their new running back tandem to keep the offensive attack balanced and the defense guessing, while making sure they don’t get so caught up in the option that they get beat over the top again.
I was already leaning toward predicting a repeat of last season, but the improvements I’ve seen in the NMSU running game between Larry Rose’s health and Jason Huntley’s emergence, as well as the successfully aggressive front seven, make me even more sure of another victory in the I-25 Rivalry for New Mexico State.
New Mexico State 37, New Mexico 30