New Mexico State (1-5) at Utah State (5-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 3:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Romney Stadium (25,513) -- Logan, Utah. Television: KMYU. Home Record: NMSU 1-2, USU 3-0. Away Record: NMSU 0-3, USU 2-2. Neutral Record: NMSU 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: NMSU 0-2, USU 1-0. Series Record: Utah State leads, 32-7.
GAME NOTES: Following up a tremendous performance on both sides of the ball last week against San Jose State, the Utah State Aggies now set their sights on visiting New Mexico State when the two teams collide in Western Athletic Conference action at Romney Stadium in Logan on Saturday afternoon.
Not only did Utah State win for the third time in the last four outings last Saturday, the team did so by scoring a season-high 49 points in a 22-point victory over San Jose State on the road. Not only was the scoring output a considerable change from the mere three points put up against BYU eight days prior, the Aggies also stepped up to record a school-record 13 sacks as well.
To put in perspective just how impressive the sacks total was from last week, the team had just 25 sacks all of last season through 13 games and already has 27 over the course of seven games in 2012.
As for those other Aggies from the WAC, the ones from Las Cruces, they enjoyed some time off last week. Hopefully the program spent the time wisely in hopes of halting what has become a five-game slide. New Mexico State, which opened this season with a 49-19 romp over Sacramento State, has not defeated another member of the Football Bowl Subdivision since taking down Fresno State, 48-45, on Nov. 12, 2011 and hasn't won on the road since conquering New Mexico, 42-28, in Albuquerque on Oct. 1, 2011.
The most recent outing for NMSU came at Idaho on Oct. 6 with the team suffering a 26-18 setback at the Kibbie Dome.
NMSU trails in the all-time series, 32-7, losing two straight and four of the last five encounters. Last season, USU posted a 24-21 win in Las Cruces which is where New Mexico State last won in the series three years ago in a 20-17 final.
Positives for the NMSU program seem to be few and far between these days, but there are a few rays of light for these Aggies, particularly receiver Austin Franklin. Ranked second in the WAC and seventh in the nation with 123.7 ypg receiving, Franklin is also second in the league and now tied for 15th in the country with seven catches per game. Of the 11 touchdowns thrown by quarterback Andrew Manley, all but four have gone to Franklin.
If you throw Kemonte Bateman onto that short list of standouts, what with his 30 catches for 405 yards and another couple of touchdowns, you have two players who are responsible for 72 of the team's 119 receptions over six games.
Unfortunately, while the passing attack for NMSU appears to be functioning, the team's run game is lagging severely with a mere 85.7 ypg which is 116th in the country at the moment.
On defense, the Aggies from Las Cruces can't get much traction, particularly at the line of scrimmage. In fact, the unit ranks 99th in the nation with just 4.83 tackles for loss per game and are also 118th in sacks with only 0.67 per outing.
That lack of sacks by NMSU is in stark contrast to what Utah State has been able to accomplish this season, especially last week when Connor Williams, Jordan Nielsen, Nevin Lawson and Kyler Fackrell also recorded a pair of sacks on their own versus San Jose State's overworked offensive line. For his efforts Fackrell, who also led the way in total tackles (11), had one forced fumble and one recovery, was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Also earning player of the week honors for USU was running back Kerwynn Williams who bounced back from a weak effort against BYU by running for 176 yards and three touchdowns, matching his entire TD total from all of last season. Not to be overlooked was quarterback Chuckie Keeton who converted 26- of-35 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns versus SJSU.
Keeton, who has his team on the verge of becoming bowl eligible, has completed better than two-thirds of his pass attempts over seven games, resulting in 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Not only is Williams electrifying as a running back, his 27 catches for 331 yards are both second only to Matt Austin who has 28 grabs for 403 yards and four touchdowns.
Spreading the wealth on defense, Nielsen, Williams and Zach Vigil all have four sacks to this point, the latter leading the team with 7.5 TFL and is second with 59 tackles overall.
Winners of six straight WAC outings and off to their best start since 1982, the Utah State Aggies showed last week that they can dominate in all facets of the game, something NMSU will find out firsthand this week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 35, New Mexico State 13
10/17 10:44:38 ET