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Spartans’ preview: What the numbers tell us vs. the Aggies

New Mexico State on paper & real life & then some

SJS Spartan defense celebrate a Viliami Fehoko sack and fumble recovery at Valley Children’s Stadium, Fresno, CA, October 15, 2022.
photo by: Austin Ginn

Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium – Las Cruces, NM

Date/Time: Saturday, October 22nd @ 3 PM PDT

Broadcast: FloSports | KTRB 860 AM

Head-to-head history: San Jose State (4-2, 2-1 MW) is 18-3 over New Mexico State (2-5, 2-2 at home). Last season, the Spartans beat the Aggies at CEFCU Stadium in a tight game.

In the spirit of a manic Mountain West conference, the matchup between the Spartans and Aggies follows suit.

“It’s going to be a tough game because of the travel and not really knowing much about them,” said SJS head coach Brent Brennan. “We played them a year ago, but they have a new coaching staff and their head coach has been successful at every level.”

Last year in comparison, San Jose State was favored by 26 points over the Aggies that ended in a 37-31 win for the Spartans.

In New Mexico this year, the Spartans are three touchdown favorites.

The only thing similar to the game last year is Brennan, his staff and a number of the veteran Spartans and veteran Aggies. Otherwise, New Mexico State is revamped just as SJS is.

Like Fresno State, the Aggies are a perfect disruption candidate to the heavily favored Spartans.

First, what do these numbers tell you?

  • SJS is #3 in the nation in turnover margin vs. NMS at 125th
  • NMS is 63rd in the nation in total defense (over Utah State, UNLV, Fresno State, Nevada and San Diego State) vs. SJS at 15th in the nation in total defense
  • NMS is 128th in total offense nationally vs. SJS is 85th in total offense
  • SJS’ passing offense is 43rd in the nation - NMS is 125th
  • SJS’ rushing offense is 118th in the nation - NMS is 81st

It seems to tell you there’s a 4 PM mountain time game on Saturday where logic can go out the window.

But if the universe isn’t too warped in Las Cruces (where a few hundred miles away is Area 51 and where the first nuclear bomb was detonated), the Spartans should win big going away.

Luck, marry, Kill

First-year Aggie head coach Jerry Kill has similar emotional energy and leadership qualities as Brennan. Kill has an X-factor way about him that has brought renewed hope to the Aggie program.

As an independent, NMS has been one of the bottom feeder programs since 2018. Kill is defensive centric; right away mixing veteran players with underclassmen and providing more open scheme options for the Aggie defense to be creative.

Kill’s philosophies are naturally creating a culture change starting with an improved defense currently ranked 63rd in the nation.

In comparison from 2018 to 2021, the NMS defense ranked 126th, 129th and 107th.

It’s an Aggie defense ranking well above Fresno State, Utah State, San Diego State. No doubt NMS has taken notes from the Bulldog’s effort on minimizing Spartan QB Chevan Cordiero’s run threat.

So, we can bet the defensive Kill rate will have all options to flummox Cordiero and OC Kevin McGiven’s efforts.

Offensively for the Aggies, there’s two unheralded mobile quarterbacks that can start. 6’4” 220 lb. freshman Gavin Frakes, who rushed for over 1,000 yards his senior season, and JC transfer Diego Pavia (Weston Eget, brother of Spartan Walker Eget, is also on the Aggies roster). Like many teams, the Aggies also have backs and perimeter people who can do enough damage, if their QB(s) have a good day.

The sky is falling?!

After Tuesday press conferences with Brennan, it’s an open atmosphere among the room from topics of baseball to the NFL, social media to mental health, food to exercising, etc.

These are times we absorb and learn more of what’s happening on and off the field. It helps in many ways - relationship building being first and foremost.

Even so, after three clear cut wins, then an unexpected loss to Fresno State last week, the crisis-mode questions came in full force right after the game - where we actually already know much of the answers.

Determination and execution, learn and watch more film, belief and support, injuries and next man up - sometimes in angst after an already exhausting game, players and coaches have basic answers at the ready to sometimes twisting questions.

Basically, it can be challenging to pepper the people you interview in certain situations while you have a vested interest in them. Luckily, we all know we have a job to do.

And for the Aggies at home as a big underdog, we can already anticipate it as a huge motivating factor for another expected heavyweight fight that should run the emotional gamut - tough, disappointing and/or exhilarating, and on to the next.

“It’s always about execution,” said Brennan on how the Spartans handle each play and look past things they can’t control. “It’s always about us and how we handle those moments and how we execute what we call.”

After a hard loss in one Aggie country last week, the way the Spartans recover and answer all four quarters in this next Aggie country will say a lot.