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New Mexico vs. Utah State game preview: Keys to a Lobos victory

The Lobos (6-3, 4-1 MW) have another conference showdown this weekend when they take on Utah State (3-6, 1-5 MW).

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

With New Mexico's victory over Nevada last week, the Lobos officially became bowl eligible for the second straight year. Furthermore, the Lobos have first place in the Mountain West-Mountain Division in their sight. They currently sit in third place, but a match up with first-place Wyoming is looming in the final week of the season. This weekend, they'll take on a Utah State team that has struggled mightily. The Aggies have lost 5 of their last 6 whereas the Lobos have 5 victories in that timeframe. Still, Logan, Utah will be a tough place to play this weekend when the Lobos go in there with the hopes of a win. What can UNM do to procure the victory?

1. Don't Underestimate the Opponent

It will be easy for New Mexico to overlook Utah State this week. They may very well be giddy over last week's victory which earned them a bowl bid. They might very well be thinking about their upcoming contest with Wyoming that could decide first place in the West division. But for that game to have meaning, the Lobos need to take care of business starting with Utah State. And Utah State will be no easy victory. Last year the two teams battled before the Aggies lost 13-14 to UNM. Coming off a spanking at the hands of Wyoming this past weekend, USU will attempt to play spoiler to UNM's hopes. New Mexico will need to be focused.

2. Start Lamar Jordan and Bring Austin Apodaca in later

There's something about Lamar Jordan...He brings stability and consistency to the UNM offense. Perhaps it is because Jordan shrinks the Lobos' passing game, but whatever it is, it works. With him heading the triple-offense that features Tyrone Owens and Teriyon Gipson, the Lobos are averaging a nation-best 358.8 rushing yards per game. While Jordan provides that stability, Apodaca adds an unpredictable x-factor. Opposing defenses assume he'll pass and that opens up other possibilities. Apodaca is something like a sixth man that comes in to bring a new energy and dynamic to the game. Since his return from injury, the quarterback has been an efficient 14/18 passing for 122 yards while rushing for 44, just enough to keep the defense on their toes.

3. Slow Down Utah State's Receivers

It is unclear at this point who will be the quarterback this week for Utah State. Normal starter Kent Myers was hurt in last week's game. Even though Damion Hobbs filled in admirably, he doesn't have Myers's experience or stats. Whoever is behind center has two great options at wide-out: Ron-Quavion Tarver and Rayshad Lewis. The former uses his size and the latter his speed to create a lethal combination. UNM's secondary will be put to the test on Saturday night. Although the defense has made great gains over the last few weeks, I still remain rightfully concerned about the Lobos' last line of defense. Their ability to slow down these two stand outs will be key to the cherry-and-silver getting the victory.

This game will be on ESPN2 at 8:15 mountain time on Saturday night.