BYU (6-5) at New Mexico State (1-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 24, 3:30 pm (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Aggie Memorial Stadium (30,343) -- Las Cruces, New Mexico. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: BYU 5-1, NMSU 1-4. Away Record: BYU 1-4, NMSU 0-5. Neutral Record: BYU 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Conference Record: BYU 0-0, NMSU 0-5. Series Record: BYU leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: With whispers of them possibly returning to the Mountain West Conference in the near future, the BYU Cougars do their best to block out all of the distractions as they prepare to close out the 2012 regular season with a meeting against New Mexico State in Las Cruces on Saturday afternoon.
Rumors have been making the rounds in recent days about the Cougars possibly heading back to their former stomping grounds in the MWC, but for the moment they are just that, rumors. More importantly, the team is trying to finish off the regular season on a positive note before making preparations for the Poinsettia Bowl for which they've already agreed to appear.
Last week, BYU saw a two-game win streak come to an end when it bowed to San Jose State on the road in a 20-14 final. While the Cougars have been solid at home with five wins in six opportunities, playing elsewhere in this fall has yielded only one victory (Georgia Tech) among five chances.
But as disappointing as the BYU season has turned out, it doesn't nearly compare to how hard the Aggies have had it with just a single win in 10 outings. What's worse is that, since defeating Sacramento State in the opener, 49-19, the team has gone winless in the last nine games which means it currently own the third-longest skid in the country.
Last week, NMSU took some time off with a bye built into the schedule, but that was only after the group dropped a 47-7 decision to San Jose State, ironically enough. In three of the last four games, the Aggies have scored no more than a single touchdown.
BYU won the only previous meeting between these programs last season with a 42-7 triumph in Provo.
Riley Nelson threw for 335 yards and a touchdown last Saturday against SJSU, but the signal-caller just couldn't get his offense into gear against an emerging Spartans squad. In fact, the passing score didn't come until there was just 2:36 remaining in the fourth quarter. The other TD for the Cougars came on a 16-yard run by Jamaal Williams less than six minutes into the first quarter.
Defensively, the Cougars had been one of the toughest competitors in college football when slowing down passing attacks, limiting foes to only 172.2 ypg which was 10th-best in the country heading into the week, but the squad was tested early and often. In fact, BYU allowed one of the nation's most precise passers to throw for 305 yards and three scores and that made all the difference in the meeting.
Because SJSU was able to find some cracks in the BYU defensive armor, the Cougars saw their ranking in the pass defense department move seven places to 17th, now with 184.3 ypg. The good news, at least for the run defense this week as it ranks fourth nationally with just 89.3 ypg allowed, is that New Mexico State doesn't have much of a running attack at all, so that number may even become more favorable for the Cougars.
The bigger concern has to be Nelson though, his 13 TDs this season almost matched by his 12 INTs. On the ground, the Cougars continue to lean on Williams who now has 11 TDs as he averages more than five yards per attempt.
New Mexico State head coach DeWayne Walker has ties to the BYU program after serving as the defensive backs coach in 1994, but that's about as close as this team will be when trying to compare the two squads. Coach Walker has been struggling with the Aggies for a number of years now, but at the very least he does have one player that he can hold up as a success story and that's wide receiver Austin Franklin.
With 66 catches for 1,135 yards and nine touchdowns, Franklin was named a semifinalist for the 2012 Biletnikoff Award and while the competition for the award was very tough and he failed to make it as a finalist, just to be in the same sentence with those players has to be a good feeling for Franklin, the offense and coach Walker.
Unfortunately, this is an NMSU offense that is ranked 115th in the country in scoring with just 18.2 ppg while having trouble with consistent play at the quarterback position. Andrew Manley has thrown for 235.8 ypg and a total of 14 TDs, but all that has gone along with 10 INTs as well.
With the New Mexico State defense being one of the weakest in the country, this is an opportunity for some of the BYU players to pad a few stats and close out the regular season on a positive note.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 38, New Mexico State 14
11/21 11:08:48 ET