LOCATION: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM (30,343)
WHEN: 3 PM CST, ESPN3, Time Warner Cable Channel 77 (Austin/San Marcos area)
WEATHER: 78 H/51 L 0% chance rain
LINE: Texas State -7.5 (opened -10)
The Texas State Bobcats are 4-3 (2-1 Sun Belt) after a rare spotting of one of the world's most elusive creatures: A Dennis Franchione 4th quarter comeback. They face a 2-6 New Mexico State Aggies team that started their season with wins over FCS Cal Poly and (should probably be FCS) Georgia State, and have more or less cratered since then.
Storylines of Note
Where has all the offense gone?
Texas State's recent issues on offense, especially in the passing game, started against a Vandal defense that had previously intimidated no one and continued until the 4th quarter in Monroe. Once Texas State started moving away from a run between the tackles Tecmo Bowl offense and started utilizing CJ Best and Terrence Franks on veer/screen/sweep plays in the wide areas, they found success against a previously stubborn Warhawk defense and the middle eventually opened up for Robert Lowe. However, the prospect of Tyler Jones throwing deep or even mid-range routes is still mostly an afterthought.
NMSU, meanwhile, has seen their numbers steadily drop after a 517 yard, 28 point outing against Georgia Southern as Troy held them to 395 yards and 24 points and Idaho held the Aggies to a very pedestrian 314 yard, 17 point performance in Moscow. The Aggies are a classic example of an offense that puts up a lot of yards and not enough points.
One might think that these numbers indicate a flagging red zone offense, but that's not the case at all. NMSU is 4th in the nation in red zone offense as they've converted points on 22 of their 23 red zone drives. The problem is, they aren't getting into the red zone nearly enough. Their total of 23 red zone trips puts them in the same conversation as teams such as Florida (22), Troy (23), and Kent State (22), which aren't exactly known for robust offenses.
Expect the Run
NMSU is surrendering a pitiful 331 yards on the ground per game, so deciphering the Bobcat offensive game plan isn't going to be rocket science. Expect a healthy dose of Robert Lowe and Terrence Franks on read option plays with Tyler Jones, and maybe some sweeps, option runs and quick screens to the outside, and maybe quick routes over the middle. The coaches don't trust the o-line to keep Tyler Jones upright long enough to do anything else as he's suffered 9 sacks in the past two games.
The Aggies don't have a prolific ground attack as they average around 170 yards a game and only have one real dependable threat in true freshman Larry Rose III (88.3 YPG, 5 TD). However, linebacker David Mayo is currently 1st in FBS in total tackles (105), and he and Trey McGowen combined for 39 tackles last week, which was more than the next 8 players combined. If the linebackers and not the defensive tackles are making the vast majority of tackles, any team's rushing attack will be a threat, but if McGowen continues to step up the Bobcats could potentially contain the Aggies' ground attack somewhat.
Michael Odiari has also stepped up at defensive end in the past few weeks, and they'll need him to continue doing so as the defensive tackle situation has been unsurprisingly exposed as a massive weakness. The senior former walk-on has established himself as legitimate pass rush threat, so he and Mayo will look to pressure Andrew Allen or Tyler Rogers and keep NMSU's only real receiving threat in Teldrick Morgan at bay (675 yds., 84.4 YPG, 5 TD).
One thing that stands out on paper is the sheer disparity in numbers of turnovers per game between the two teams. Texas State has taken the ball away 9 times and coughed it up 9 times for 18 total turnovers for a tidy 2.6 turnovers per game.
On the flip side, NMSU's games have been littered with sloppy play--17 takeaways for and 24 against the Aggies for 41 turnovers in 8 games, or 5.1 total turnovers per game. The turnover margin in NMSU's two wins? +2. The margin in their last two losses to doormats Idaho and Troy? -2.
NMSU's decent at generating turnovers, but they're in the midst of a midseason QB controversy because their starter has thrown 15(!) interceptions, which is never a good sign. Oddly enough, the Aggies have only given up 5 sacks on the season, which suggests the 16 total interceptions they've thrown is a product of incredibly poor qb play. Texas State, by comparison, has 24 sacks on the season, so NMSU's o-line could be in for a battle.
Stats of Varying Importance
- Series history: 1-0, TXST (Bobcats won 66-28 in 2012)
- S/P+ Efficiency Rankings: TXST 104 (107 LW), New Mexico State 122 (same as LW)
- Number of times David Mayo's yelled "VICTORY OR SOVNGARDE" on the gridiron: Unknown, but Mayo totally slays dragons in his spare time and this song needs to play every time he takes the field.
NMSU has played much better
on the set of Diet Breaking Bad at home in Las Cruces where their average margin of loss has been 5.5 points to 25.75 on the road, and they did give Sun Belt leader Georgia Southern a close game. Texas State, meanwhile, is 2-1 on the road with all three games being decided by 7 points or less.
If the Bobcats can hold onto the ball, run the Lowe/Franks two-headed monster down the Aggies' throats and force NMSU's shaky quarterback(s?) into mistakes, they could finally get their first double digit win against an FBS opponent. If Texas State relapses into the sloppy play of the Idaho game or the offensive woes of the first three quarters at ULM, this game will once again be closer than it needs to be.
Texas State 28, New Mexico 20