Tale of the Tape
- Date: Saturday, August 27
- Time: 8:00 PM MT/9:00 PM CT/ 10:00 PM ET
- TV: ESPN 2
- Radio: 99.5 FM Zia Country
- Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium - Las Cruces, New Mexico
- Spread: Nevada -9*
- Point Total: O/U 50.5*
- ESPN FPI: Nevada 78.2%
- Series History: Nevada leads 14-2 and has won four straight
- Last meeting: Nevada won last year 55-28, with Carson Strong throwing six touchdown passes
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Nevada Offense vs. NM State Defense
The Week 0 matchup between the Aggies and Wolfpack can be summed up with one word: New.
New coaches, new schemes, and new players all trying to start the new season 1-0. Anything is possible.
What we do know is that it is highly likely that both teams try to run the ball. Nevada’s head coach, Ken Wilson, is moving Nevada from the Air Raid system that Jay Norvell ran last year to more of a run oriented offense. This means we will see a lot of Toa Taua, Nevada’s leading returning rusher (732 yards) from a season ago. He will be complimented by Devontae Lee, who rushed for 331 yards in 2021.
The NM State defense should match up well against the rushing attack. While the Aggies aren’t necessarily known for their defense, they do have a very experienced and deep front 7 that I expect to see have a very big impact on this game. Chris Ojoh and Trevor Brohard should be able to get their seasons off to very good starts flying toward the ball carriers.
Outside of the running game, however, things look a little dicey for the Wolf pack. They only have one receiver returning from last year’s team in Jamaal Bell and he only caught 14 passes. In fact, their leading receiver is actually Taua.
That bodes well for a NM State secondary that was one of the worst in the country last season. If they can work out some kinks against some less experienced receivers, that might help them gain confidence moving forward.
They will also have a new quarterback, which will either be Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth or redshirt senior Nate Cox.
The Aggies, with very little experience at quarterback, are in the same boat and will lean on their running backs, in the hope that their experienced defense can keep the game close into the 4th quarter. Nevada will likely try to do the same thing.
Nevada Defense vs. NM State Offense
The Wolfpack only return three starters, and only six of their top 20 tacklers, from a defense that led the nation in turnover margin (+17). This group is led by defensive lineman Dom Peterson, who is one of the top defensive lineman in the Mountain West. It will be a good early test for a new New Mexico State offensive line.
Peterson anchored the defensive line last season tallying 40 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He will be joined by Christopher Love, who had 26 tackles last season, at the other defensive tackle position.
The linebacker room has been depleted as four of the top five are gone but they do return nickelback Bentlee Sanders. Sanders only had 24 tackles and is listed at safety on the depth chart.
The new nickelback is Tyson Williams who has played in 28 games over four years. However, that leaves sophomores Naki Mateialona and Maurice Wilmer as the top two linebackers but they only combined for 7 tackles last season, continuing on the “newness” theme.
Due to the lack of experience in the front 7 for Nevada, I think the Aggies’ rushing attack will be able to find some holes. It may be a coming out party for some of the really talented backs that Jerry Kill was able to bring in over the offseason, as long as the offensive line can do their part.
The Nevada secondary looks to be the most promising defensive unit for Nevada, with Isaiah Essissima and Jaden Dedman holding down the corner positions and coming in with experience, as well as the aforementioned Sanders at safety.
That might make the passing game a little tricky for the Aggies, as they have a lot of new receivers this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how they are utilized and will depend on who is playing quarterback.
Overall, it will be a big learning experience for both teams as they gauge talent and how each player communicates with one another. I expect to see some big plays and at least one turnover and one rushing touchdown by each team.
One thing is for sure: there will be a lot of running the ball.
I have to give the nod to the New Mexico State Aggies, however, because they have an experienced head coach in Jerry Kill, much more experience returning, the home crowd and will want some revenge over last year.
New Mexico State 27 Nevada 24