The season has been a long and painful one for the Vandals. Coming off their second worst loss in school history, Idaho looks to pick up the pieces of a year that was probably doomed from the start. The final game of 2013 brings with it an old familiar face that understands what it is like to be 1-10, the Aggies of New Mexico State.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NEW MEXICO STATE:
Ranked 49th in the nation for passing, NMSU is led by quarterback Andrew McDonald. So far this year, he has recorded 2,311 yards passing with 13 touchdowns. His accuracy tends to be a bit sporadic, but not too bad as he ranges between 60 to 75% completion percentages. He has also thrown ten interceptions this year, with four interceptions in his last four games. Averaging around 231.1 yards per game, McDonald could pose problems for a shaky Idaho secondary if not contained early enough.
NMSU has a fairly decent run game, but not one that especially stands out. Ranked 91st in the nation for rushing, NMSU averages about 138.0 yards per game. Leading the way are RBs Germi Morrison and Brandon Betancourt. The two have combined for 755 yards this season with six touchdowns. In last year’s match-up with Idaho, Morrison had 66 yards on 16 carries. While the run game has been put on a back-burner of late, don’t be surprised if the Aggies break it out for this game.
Defensively, NMSU has allowed 47.2 points per game so far this season, ranking them 125th in the nation in this category, one spot in front of Idaho. The defense doesn’t really do a good job though getting at the quarterback as they have recorded just ten sacks this season. The secondary is a bit questionable as they have given up a ton of passing yards this season, but have recorded just as many interceptions as Idaho at 9.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR IDAHO:
With Coach Paul Petrino saying that QB Chad Chalich won’t be playing in this game, it’s up to QB Taylor Davis to get the passing game going. NMSU might be the weakest defense the Vandals have faced all season and jumping all over them as soon as possible will be the biggest key. Idaho has shown twice this season (NIU and ODU games) that they can put up big points and do it in a quick manner. Now they need to show it for a third time. Davis still likes to give up the ball too much, which is incredibly worrisome, so he needs to be on top of his game. If he is to falter early, Petrino needs to look at bringing in back-up Josh McCain for relief.
For Davis to be comfortable, the running game needs to carry its own weight. RB Richard Montgomery and James Baker could have big games and their success will determine how good the passing game turns out. Having options is great and if Idaho can get the ball moving on the ground, it could help a lot.
I don’t care who starts where on the defense, but they need to step it up and play like they are worth their scholarships. Too many times this season fans have seen the Vandals get destroyed on defense because of simple mistakes made by just about everyone. When the defense isn’t mentally in it, they fold up and just let things happen as if their opponents were just running plays to practice them. Getting at the QB will be big just to break up the flow of NMSU’s offense. If this game turns into a shoot-out, it will be sad and may be enough to warrant Idaho to look for new people on the defensive side of the staff.
When it comes to the teams that Idaho plays, New Mexico State is probably one of my favorites. Not because we have a 14-5 record against them all-time, but because the Aggies know the pains of playing at the FBS level as much as Idaho. Since 1996, NMSU has won just 57 games, nine less than Idaho in that same time frame. Much like the Vandals, the Aggies were thrown to the wind this past season in the shuffle of conferences and will join Idaho in the Sun Belt next season.
With this game falling in a week where there have been a ton of rivalry games, I would like to take a quick moment to propose that the athletic directors for both of these schools come together and make an official rivalry trophy for this game. I know that the “Rio Grande Rivalry” might mean a little bit more to NMSU, but it only feels right that there be something between the Vandals and Aggies, especially with both teams going into the Sun Belt. The trophy could be a plow for all I care! Somebody needs to make this happen.
As for the 2013 edition of this game, it’s going to be a pillow fight, plain and simple. Neither of these teams can get their heads straight long enough to make anything work. Out of the two, I do feel like Idaho is the better team just based on how they played against NIU, ODU and to a certain extent Florida State. The only thing I can hope is that the defense can hold the Aggies and this doesn’t get ugly. Fingers crossed that the Vandals can end this awful season on a high note.
NCAA 13 Prediction: Idaho 17 New Mexico State 14
My Prediction: Idaho 35 New Mexico State 17