New Mexico Lobos vs. San Diego State Aztecs
Saturday October 9th, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time
Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA. Home of the Aztecs.
The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1. The UNM Sports Radio Network will carry the game on the airwaves. Flagship station is 770 AM/96.3 FM KKOB in Albuquerque.
San Diego State has the edge in the series with a 27-15 record. The last time these two schools hooked up on the gridiron was back in 2018 when the Aztecs won 31-23.
For the second time this season the New Mexico Lobos will pay a visit to a Top 25 ranked opponent. This time it will be the #25 San Diego State Aztecs, in a Mountain West Conference game on Saturday night.
The Lobos are coming into this game on a three-game losing streak. Having lost to Texas A&M, the other ranked team UNM has played this season, UTEP and are coming off a loss to Air Force last week.
San Diego State is riding their running game to a 4-0 start on the season. Their wins on the campaign have come against New Mexico State, Arizona, Utah, and Towson. The Aztecs have had two weeks to prepare for this game, having taken last weekend off.
This is the first game for New Mexico Defensive Coordinator Rocky Long against his old team in San Diego State. Long was t he Head Coach at SDSU from 2011 until 2019, amassing an 81-38 record and winning four bowl games.
What to expect from San Diego State:
The Aztecs have run the ball extremely effectively this season. Averaging 251 yards per game on the ground, which is second in the Mountain West and ninth overall in the nation.
Greg Bell will be leading the way on the ground. Bell has gone for 409 yards this season to date but left the game against Towson with an ankle injury after just two carries for four yards. Outside of that contest, Bell has gone for over 100 yards rushing in each SDSU game this season. His lowest output in those three games was 119 yards against Utah.
If Bell is struggling, the Aztecs will turn to Jordan Byrd and Chance Bell. Byrd had 75 yards on seven carries against Towson, while Chance Bell went for 79 yards on seven carries.
The Aztecs will rotate backs to keep them fresh and are more than likely licking their chops with UNM’s defense giving up 408 yards on the ground last week versus Air Force.
San Diego State’s passing attack is more of a game management style of attack. The Aztecs average just 128 yards passing per game this season. Their quarterback Jordon Brookshire was injured in the Arizona contest and has missed the last two, but he is expected back against UNM on Saturday.
Brookshire has only played in two games this season and is just 17-for-35 for 298 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. While Brookshire hasn’t thrown the ball much this season, he can be sneaky accurate, so the Lobos shouldn’t sleep on the passing game all together.
Defensively for the Aztecs they love to shutdown the run. San Diego State is only allowing 46 yards a game on the ground. New Mexico’s run game has struggled this season, and this appears to be another game in which their struggles will continue. The Aztecs passing defense, though, is not quite as good as their run defense, allowing 244 yards per game through the air. San Diego State did give up 326 yards passing against New Mexico State earlier this season. With all of the core of receivers back for UNM, Terry Wilson Jr. might be able to pick apart the SDSU defense if he is given time.
What to expect from New Mexico:
Despite the San Diego State defensive capabilities against the run, do not expect the Lobos to give up on the running game all together in this one. Coach Danny Gonzales has said previously that running the ball first is who they are as a team. While it seems that running against San Diego State will be a hopeless cause the expectation should be there for UNM to run in the first half at the very least.
With a little bit of a susceptible defense against the pass for San Diego State, Terry Wilson Jr. will pretty much be the x-factor for the Lobos on offense. Wilson has shown that he has a cannon and has receivers that can catch the deep ball. He will more than likely have to lean on that again this week if the Lobos want to stay in the game.
Defensively for UNM, they will have to make Brookshire beat them. UNM was run into the ground last week by Air Force’s triple option to the tune of 408 yards. However, San Diego State does not run the triple option. So, the Lobos will no doubt be loading up to stop the run. More importantly, they will need to stop the Aztecs backs from getting outside to the edge. Air Force had a ton of success there last week, and with the speed of the SDSU running backs, it will be costly if the Lobos cannot contain them to the middle of the field. Brookshire has been a game manager in his two starts and the Lobos should be content with allowing him to try to make plays if he can. This game screams opportunity for Jerrick Reed and the Lobo defense.
Final Thoughts and Prediction:
Honestly the Lobos are not in good shape on paper in this one. The Aztecs have run with ease on their first four opponents and as I have pointed out numerous times in this preview, New Mexico just gave up 408 yards on the ground. I feel as though the 19-point spread is a little high in this one, but I have been wrong many times this season. Without a rushing attack the Lobos might struggle in this one. The Lobos are in a fragile state right now with losing three straight and the Aztecs are still riding the wave of momentum to begin this season and are getting their starting quarterback and running back to return from injuries. All of that does not bode well for UNM.
I like the Aztecs in this one, but I like the Lobos to keep it closer than 19 points. Give me the Aztecs-31 Lobos-21.