Start Time: 8:00 PM EST, Saturday, October 31
Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Radio: Idaho: here. NMSU: here.
Records: Idaho: 3-4. NMSU: 0-7. Idaho leads the overall series 15-6.
Live Stats: here.
Line: Idaho -7. Over/Under: 64.
Idaho Outlook: The Idaho Vandals are somehow hanging around at 3-4 with a legitimate shot at getting to six wins and getting bowl consideration.
Running the football has been all about Elijhaa Penny. The senior has 622 yards on the ground with a 4.7 yards per carry average. He is the workhorse for the Vandal run game with no one else attempting more than 52 carries on the season. Sophomore Aaron Duckworth has looked solid in limited action in the backfield. Overall, the Vandals are able to gain positive yards on the regular basis (success rate of 46.4%), but struggle to keep drives alive on the ground.
Idaho will be without star wide receiver Dezmon Epps for this game and possibly for the rest of the season due to off the field troubles. He is responsible for 61 catches, 757 yards, and two touchdowns. His target rate of 32.7% is one of the highest in the nation for a single receiver. The Vandals have a couple of capable tight ends in Deon Watson and Trent Cowan, a duo that has combined for 20 catches, just over 500 yards, and five touchdown. Between those two and wide receiver Callen Hightower, the loss of Epps may not be as devastating as everyone expects.
Maybe it's the quality of competition lately, but Idaho has been very good on defense in beating Troy and ULM in the last two weeks. The Vandals gave up a combined 29 points in those two games after giving up 38 or more points in each of the first five games of the season. You almost have to throw first half of the season statistics out the window when talking about the Idaho defense.
Players to watch on the Idaho defense include: Quinton Bradley, Chris Edwards, and Broc Westlake.
NMSU Outlook: The Aggies are desperate to keep this season from falling to 0-12, and this game versus Idaho might be one of the last chances to win a game.
The Aggies offense is the third most explosive in the nation according to the IsoPPP rankings. Nearly all of that comes from the rushing attack, led by Larry Rose III. The sophomore has rushed for 867 yards on the season at a 7.6 yards per carry average. He is the most explosive player on the Aggies offense and accounts for 73.2% of all New Mexico State rushing yards on the year.
An injury to quarterback Tyler Rogers has been tough for the Aggies to overcome this season. Andrew Allen has struggled in completing only 51.7% of his passes for 116.8 yards per game average. His inability to get the ball to his receivers has really affected Teldrick Morgan (50% catch rate) and Jordan Bergstrom (38.2% catch rate). Those two have been targeted on 78 occasions, but have only 35 combined receptions. Tyrain Taylor is the only wide receiver with a catch rate over 60%.
This New Mexico State defense makes Idaho's defense look like the 1985 Chicago Bears. Not only do the Aggies rank in the bottom five nationally in giving up explosive plays, they also rank in the bottom five in defensive success rate (49.7% allowed). Basically, the Aggies give up yards on a regular basis and get routed for big plays when that happens. Offenses are averaging 6.6 yards per carry versus NMSU, good for 291.7 yards per game. The Aggies are "only" giving up 267.6 yards per game in the air.
Players to watch on the NMSU defense include: Derek Ibekwe, Terrill Hanks, and Rodney Butler.
Prediction: Penny should be able to have his way versus an overwhelmed NMSU defense and be on pace for another career day. New Mexico State will again struggle at the quarterback position and fall to 0-8. Idaho 34, NMSU 21.