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New Mexico Preview from CFN

Here is New Mexico's Preview from College Football News

The whole idea is to be good enough and consistent enough to have a good pipeline of players who can come in, be plugged into the system, and produce. If a coaching staff is around long enough to be able to get to that point, it’s fortunate.

Rocky Long is hoping his Lobos are past that point and can finally be a true challenger for the Mountain West title, after years of being a steady upper-division bowl team, but that could be tough with one of his youngest, most inexperienced teams losing 15 starters and 22 key lettermen.

However, there’s a tremendous base or core players to build around, stability in the coaching staff, and the cloud of post-season frustration is finally gone after Long finally won a bowl game. Now, young or not, it’s time to do more.

What to watch for on offense: The backfield. The receiving corps loses its stars, but it'll be fine with a little bit of time. The line has to replace four starters, but JUCO transfers will make up for the concerns and there are good talents to get excited about. The difference between another good, bowl season and a possible sleeper run to the Mountain West title lies in the backfield where Donovan Porterie appears ready to become a special playmaker. Rodney Ferguson, is a sure-thing for 1,000 yards if his academics are in order, while Paul Baker is ready to bust out. The Lobos have the skill players to put up some big numbers.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary to be among the best in America. The corner tandem of DeAndre Wright and Glover Quinn will be special, while the three safeties in the 3-3-5 formation, Ian Clark, Blake Ligon and Clint McPeek, are all solid veterans. the pass defense was 20th in the nation even though there wasn't much of a pass rush, and now it should be even better. Few will be able to consistently throw on this group.

The team will be far better if … the offense can score on the good teams. The points and production simply weren't there throughout last season on a consistent basis. While there were 44 points against New Mexico State and 58 against Sacramento State, the Lobos only scored more than 30 points one other time, against Air Force, and averaged just over 11 points per game against BYU, TCU and Utah.

The Schedule: The schedule is cruel. Too cruel. The opener against TCU will set the tone for the Mountain West season, while home games against Texas A&M and Arizona could build/crush the team's confidence. And then things really kick in with three road trips in four weeks including battles at Tulsa, who led the nation in total offense last year, New Mexico State, who gets almost everyone back on its high-octane offense, and at BYU. If that wasn't a bad enough break, there isn't an off week; the Lobos are going 12 straight weeks with the open date coming at the end. Just to add to the fun, there's a second stretch of three road games in four weeks to close the year.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Rodney Ferguson. While Donovan Porterie should get to another level where he can start to make his receivers better, instead of the other way around, and while it could be Paul Baker who gets the starting nod early on as the team's top back, Ferguson is the pounding 100-yard star who'll keep the offense grounded. Suspended from the New Mexico Bowl because of academic issues, he'll soon be back in everyone's good graces.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB DeAndre Wright. With a great mix of speed, tackling ability and size, Wright is the Mountain West's premier cover corner, and has been for a few seasons. His stats might not be all that great since no one likes to throw his way, but he'll erase everyone's number one target.

Key player to a successful season: Senior WR Jermaine McQueen. After losing the tremendous receiving tandem of Travis Brown and Marcus Smith, the Lobos need several new receivers to step up and shine. McQueen has been a career tease, having all the speed and skills but failing to do much with them. Now he appears ready to take a big leap forward and be the home run hitter, and Porterie's main man, to keep the passing production rolling.

The season will be a success if ... the Lobos win nine games again. That might be setting the bar low for a program that has been so successful over the last several years, but there are too many holes to patch and the schedule has too many quirks to shoot for a special year. Even so, there's no reason to not be able to get out to a decent start by coming up with huge wins in two of the first three games against TCU, Texas A&M and Arizona. Forgetting the timing of the game, only the road trip to BYU is a true killer. If the team can keep its head on the road, and doesn't wear down, getting to nine wins should be possible.

Key game: Aug. 30 vs. TCU. While the October 11 date against BYU in Provo will be a make-or-break game for the Mountain West title hopes, that won't mean much if the Lobos can't win the opener against TCU. Each team is good enough to win the league with the right breaks, and one of those is starting out with a win.

2007 Fun Stats:
- 4th down conversions: UNM 14 of 23 (61%) - Opponents 5 of 15 (33%)
- 1st quarter scoring: UNM 81 - Opponents 54
- Rushing touchdowns: UNM 16 - Opponents 9