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Aggies looking to keep their division hopes alive
WEEK 12: Utah State Aggies (8-3) vs. New Mexico Lobos (3-8)
WHEN: Friday, November 26th, 2021 – 11:00 AM MT
WHERE: Dreamstyle Stadium; Albuquerque, New Mexico (39,224)
STREAMING: FuboTV – Get a 7-day free trial
RADIO: Utah State radio broadcast on 1280 the zone (1280 AM), 1280thezone.com / Tunein.com
SERIES RECORD: Utah State leads the all-time series, 14-13. In the last meeting on November 26th, 2020, the Aggies defeated the Lobos, 41-27, in Logan.
GAME NOTES: Utah State | New Mexico
ODDS (via ESPN): Utah State -15.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Utah State TBD
FEI PROJECTION: Utah State by 13.3
The Aggies travel to New Mexico to close out the regular season and hope for a division crown. They will be looking to get the awful taste out of their mouths from the Wyoming beatdown, which denied USU control of their own destiny in the conference race. On the flip side, the Lobos are just trying to end their year with some pride. Which team wants it more?
Three Keys to an Aggie Victory
1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
After getting bullied and bruised by a stout Wyoming defense, USU’s passing attack should have a bounce-back week against New Mexico.
The Lobos have a scoring defense that is giving up 27.8 ppg, good for 80th in the NCAA. Though their pass defense ranks a respectable 36th with 210.4 ypg given up, the Lobos are near the bottom of the NCAA in yards per completion allowed at 9.8. Teams are taking advantage of this weak secondary and they are rewarded with a first down much of the time as a result. Against a team like USU that ranks in the top 20 in passing offense, Deven Thompkins and Brandon Bowling ought to have a field day running all over these defenders. QB Logan Bonner should be much better protected against a defensive line that struggles to get pressure.
Rocky Long is going to improve the Lobo defense a lot over time, but they are simply not there yet with depth. USU needs to feed Thompkins and open the field up to the other (less guarded) receivers, which has largely worked all season.
2. Better gap control and stay disciplined on defense
This was a backbreaker versus the Pokes. The Aggies routinely got themselves into favorable second and third down defensive positions, but gave up home run plays right after that. This demoralized and tired the defense. USU absolutely cannot allow multiple large runs by New Mexico’s running backs.
Considering how tenuous depth on the defensive side of the ball is right now, even a middling rushing attack like New Mexico’s at 122.6 ypg can seem daunting. This will be even more pronounced if the Ags find themselves out of position on defense again.
The side line cut 🎥 @Titus_F_Swen pic.twitter.com/1NwLtLikrG
— Wyoming Cowboy Football (@wyo_football) November 21, 2021
On the bright side for USU’s defense, the Lobo offensive line isn’t as physically imposing as Wyoming’s. In terms of matchups, the defensive line will fare much better this week if they focus on winning at the line of scrimmage and getting that initial push. New Mexico ranks near the bottom of the conference in sacks given up at three per game, so getting pressure early will keep the Lobos on their heels, giving some breathing room to USU’s inconsistent secondary as well.
Lastly, the Aggies need to force the Lobos into third and long often. It will go a long way in crippling their offense. They have struggled mightily converting in those situations, doing so only 25% of the time. This is almost last in the NCAA, so there are no more excuses for this Aggie defense.
3. Take advantage of a terrible Lobo QB situation
The Aggies have seen their fair share of QB attrition in past seasons. In the 2014 season, it briefly got so bad for USU in the New Mexico bowl that they had to rely on an emergency fifth string QB for a few series after it appeared Kent Myers was injured.
It’s also reminiscent of what New Mexico is going through right now.
Due to an injury to Isaiah Chavez, graduate manager Bryson Carroll will take over at quarterback on this drive with UNM down 17-0 with 5:53 in the half. #GoLobos
— New Mexico Football (@UNMLoboFB) November 21, 2021
In their game against Boise State, the injury situation got so dire for the Lobos they needed to activate Bryson Carroll. He had been tabbed fourth string for the season, but the losses of Terry Wilson and Isaiah Chavez forced the seldom used senior into action. The Lobos got shut out 37-0 versus the Broncos and Carroll didn’t compete any passes to gain any yardage at all. To be fair, the other QBs didn’t pass for much either, combining for just 18 yards through the air.
The lack of experience from Carroll should make for an anemic passing attack. This will be especially true if the Lobos can’t get anything going on the ground. Carroll is noticeably undersized at just 5’6″, so getting pressure on him early will pay dividends for an Aggie defense that has often given up home run plays. He’s played hardly any snaps as a QB and at one point in a previous season he even changed to RB for a while, so it’s generous to call him even green.
It’s best not to find out if Carroll has homerun play-ability and just get after him early and often. It might not even hurt to bring in an occasional safety or corner blitz to keep the signal-caller uncomfortable at all times.
There is absolutely no reason for this game to be close.
Despite USU’s thinness on the lines, they are still better coached and much more experienced than New Mexico. USU has a division to play for (assuming SDSU beats Boise) and New Mexico only has their pride. Even with Logan Bonner clearly not being 100%, he still has enough moxie and strength to pass successfully on this defense.
The Aggies haven’t been beaten on the road and that will not change the day after Thanksgiving. The Aggies will have a shot at the championship game whereas the Lobos will limp to the finish.
USU 45, UNM 14