college football picks San Diego State at New Mexico State 9-11-10

September 10, 2010


DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 11th, 8:00 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Aggie Memorial Stadium (30,343) — Las Cruces, New Mexico. Television: Local. Home Record: SDSU 1-0, NMSU 0-0. Away Record: SDSU 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Neutral Record: SDSU 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Conference Record: SDSU 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Series Record: San Diego State leads, 7-1-1.

GAME NOTES: The New Mexico State Aggies finally get their 2010 football schedule off the ground this weekend as they entertain the San Diego State Aztecs in non-conference action in Las Cruces.

Last season, the Aggies had yet another disappointing campaign as they rattled off a mere three wins in 13 chances, with one of those triumphs coming against Prairie View in the second week of the season. Other than that, NMSU topped in-state rival New Mexico (20-17), another reclamation project, and Utah State (20-17) yet left little margin for error in either one of those Football Bowl Subdivision matchups. With seven straight losses since the win over USU, the Aggies enter 2010 with one of the longest losing streaks in the nation at seven games.

As for the Aztecs, they opened their 2010 slate in fine fashion last week as they defeated Nicholls State at home by a score of 47-0, marking the team’s first season-opening win since 2004. Not only was the shutout the first since 2003 for SDSU, it also represented the team’s largest margin of victory since defeating Hawaii at home by a final of 56-8 in 1996.

In terms of the all-time series between the programs, San Diego State owns a 7-1-1 advantage over the Aggies and has won five in a row. The most recent meeting took place last year at Qualcomm Stadium where SDSU logged a 34-17 victory. The last win for NMSU took place in 1955 at Aggie Memorial Stadium when the team notched a 26-6 triumph.

It took a little time for the Aztecs to warm up in the first game of the season, but once they did they couldn’t be stopped as they rolled to the commanding win at home. Quarterback Ryan Lindley threw for 303 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to DeMarco Sampson (seven rec., 179 yards) and running back Davon Brown accounted for 65 yards and two scores of his own on the ground. In fact, the running game for the Aztecs generated 218 yards and scored four times, taking a considerable amount of pressure off Lindley to do all of the work for the squad. While it is still early, seeing that the rushing attack was so much better than it was last year has to be a relief for everyone involved, especially after the group registered a mere 78.3 ypg on the ground in 2009 to rank last in the Mountain West Conference and 116th in the nation overall. The offensive line worked hard to keep Lindley in the action last year as the group allowed just 1.3 sacks per game, giving the signal-caller that much more time to go through his progressions and pick out the best target. Last season, Lindley had the passing offense ranked second in the league with 263.6 ypg.

The Aztecs held Nicholls State to a grand total of 171 yards on 63 plays, but before the SDSU faithful can get too excited they have to remember that this is the same opponent that lost to Air Force in the 2009 season opener by a final of 72-0 and won a total of only three games all of last year to begin with. Nevertheless, the defense has to be pleased with the way it performed as it held the visitors to a mere 3-of-15 on third down. Marcus Yarbrough and Nick Tenhaeff led the way with five tackles apiece as each also logged a sack in the meeting. So far the scoring defense for the Aztecs is perfect, but that wasn’t the case last season when the team not only ranked seventh in the conference, but also 98th in the nation with a whopping 30.5 ppg allowed. The team ranked only eighth in the MWC and 89th in the country in sacks with just 1.6 per game in 2009, an area that needs much more attention this year and hopefully Yarbrough and Tenhaeff have already tended to.

One of the bigger changes for the New Mexico State offense this year has Mike Dunbar taking care of the play calls as the new offensive coordinator. Dunbar has a quarter century of experience under his belt and most recently handled the action at Minnesota, so clearly he has the credentials to take over in Las Cruces as well. Dunbar will be sending the plays into junior Matt Christian who was named the starting quarterback in the middle of August. A transfer from Palomar Junior College who was an All-America performer with his former team, has all the necessary tools to move this group on the field, but it might take a little time to get into gear. After several years of bombastic passing numbers under Hal Mumme, the Aggies took several steps back in 2009 when they ranked 118th in the country with a mere 87.8 ypg through the air. Seth Smith, a walk-on with the program, worked his way to the top of the depth chart at the running back position and is again primed to be the primary ball carrier for the group in 2010 as well. With five 100-yard games last year, Smith became the first 1,000-yard rusher for the program since 2000.

A First Team All-WAC selection last season, Davon House made enough of a name for himself to earn a spot on the Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list this time around. House let the Aggies in both passes defended and interceptions a year ago and also logged 68 total tackles which shows that he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. In the middle of the defense is where the concern should lie, seeing as how the Aggies lost four seniors from the linebacking corps from 2009. Frank Padilla, B.J. Adolpho and Boyblue Aoelua should all play significant roles in the group, but it will take some time for them to gel together and get a feel for each other and their respective talents in game action. The squad will need a much harder push at the line of scrimmage than they managed a year ago, although it shouldn’t take too much of an effort to surpass their 4.2 tackles for loss per game, a number that ranked the Aggies eighth in the conference and 112th in the nation.

With an experienced quarterback in Lindley the Aztecs have a decisive advantage in this meeting. It won’t be as lopsided as the game with Nicholls State, but SDSU should be able to increase its win streak over the Aggies in the series nonetheless.

FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS : San Diego State 31, New Mexico State 17

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