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New Mexico State vs. New Mexico Preview: Battle of I-25 is a Must Win for the Aggies

The Aggies will go for their third straight victory over their in-state rival Saturday in Las Cruces

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a disappointing start to the 2018 season for the New Mexico State Aggies. The offense is averaging 10 points a game and is the third worst in the FBS according to S&P+.

The defense, having to be on the field for an incessant amount of time due to the hapless offense, is also sitting at the bottom. 126th out of 130 in the FBS to be exact, giving up 45.7 points a game and 293.7 rushing yards per game.

For this reason, it should come as no surprise that New Mexico State has made an appearance in ESPN’s Bottom 10.

Those stats don’t bode well in the upcoming matchup with in state rival New Mexico, who runs a option offense that is 50th in the nation in rushing offense (198 ypg), although they have thrown more to start the season. The Aggies need to find some leadership on both sides of the ball and must keep the defense off the field and rested if they are to have any chance in this game.

Game Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Game Time: 6 p.m. MT

TV: ESPN3, Eleven Sports, Las Cruces/El Paso CW or Fox Sports Arizona Plus

Radio: 99.5 KXPZ

Weather Forecast: 91 degrees and sunny!

Betting Line: As of this writing, New Mexico State is 4.5 point underdogs.

Series History: New Mexico leads the series 70-33-5 but has lost two straight.

What’s at Stake?: BRAGGING RIGHTS! If NMSU can pull out a win, it will tie their second longest winning streak in the series.

New Mexico Offense

The Lobo offense has morphed slightly from last season, totaling more passing yards than rushing through the first two games of the season but that may be because they were destroyed by Wisconsin last week 45-14.

The leading passer is Tevaka Tuioti, whose stat line reads 18-29 for 382 yards, five touchdowns and one interception but he will be out against the Aggies this Saturday after suffering a concussion against Wisconsin.

That means we will see backup QB Sheriron Jones, good news for NM State. Here’s how Jones has done this season, per the ABQ Journal:

Jones, a junior transfer who began his college career at Tennessee, threw for 79 yards and a touchdown on 9-of-16 passing against the Badgers after Tuioti left the game late in the first quarter. Jones also threw two interceptions and had a fumble on a quarterback sneak in the second half, when the Lobos (1-1) were outscored 35-7 en route to a 45-14 loss.

Jones was the number three quarterback going into the year but the top two options are both out and that should be blood in the water for the Aggies D.

The team’s two leading rushers are Tyrone Owens (115 yards, two touchdowns) and Zahneer Shuler (95 yards), though seven other players have recorded at least one rush.

The receiving corp for the Lobos features 11 players with at least one catch and five with a touchdown catch, so they spread the ball around a lot.

New Mexico v Wisconsin
Elijah Lilly will be the biggest threat to the Aggies D on Saturday
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Elijah Lilly is the leading receiver thus far, reeling in four catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns (he also returns kickoffs, so watch out for him). With a third string quarterback, watch for Lilly to get the ball a lot.

The only other player with two TD catches is Marcus Williams. Jay Griffin IV is next in line with five receptions for 77 yards.

Lobo Defense

Fortunately for the Aggies, the UNM defense is almost just as bad as NM State’s, ranking 123rd and giving up 37.5 ppg and 567 yards per game.

They looked okay for a while against Wisconsin, when safety Marcus Hayes (12 tackles) forced and recovered a fumble in the red zone. He’s one of the stars on the D.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Wisconsin
Marcus Hayes
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Other leaders include Alex Hart who leads with 17 tackles and Stanley Barnwell with 14.

The Lobos have four sacks through the first two weeks, so lets hope the Aggies offensive line can figure things out and keep them out of the backfield.

Injury Notes

Linebackers Leon McQuaker and Javahn Fergurson will be back in the lineup Saturday but Malik Demby may be out for the season due to nerve damage he may have suffered in his arm.