“It all probably starts this Saturday, right — for both teams. That is why it is such a big game.”
That was the question and answer the University of New Mexico head football coach Bob Davie set up for himself during Tuesday’s press conference regarding the Lobo’s weekend matchup against the New Mexico State Aggies.
Both schools have played their toughest opponents of the season already — with each facing a participant from last year’s College Football Playoff and losing by the same 52-point margin.
UNM collected a $1.1M paycheck but suffered a 66-14 defeat at the hands of No. 7 Notre Dame. The Aggies got routed by No. 2 Alabama the previous weekend to the tune of 62-10.
Davie said Saturday’s matchup against the Aggies could be a “crystal ball” that indicates things to come in the near future for both the Lobos and the Aggies.
Davie did clear up a couple of things — naming Tevaka Tuioti as the starting quarterback in the game against NMSU, but also saying he doesn't plan to be on the sidelines to coach it.
The head coach didn't travel to South Bend and said he planned to sit out the “Rio Grande Rivalry” game as well, but could be targeting next weekend's game against Liberty as a possible return.
Although the final score against the Irish wasn’t pretty, there were some positives that took place. Bryson Carroll rattled off a 47-yard touchdown run, Bobby Cole tallied a 37-yarder of his own and several other running backs made contributions to a 212-yard team rushing total.
The run game could be critical to the in-state rivalry game. NMSU has an 0-3 record and has given up nearly 237 yards per game on the ground. Washington State only rushed for 111 — electing to burn the Aggies through the air for 507 passing yards instead.
Another key to winning the game could be third down efficiency — the Aggies have converted 34% of the time, compared to just a 15% success rate for the Lobos.
New Mexico State quarterback Josh Adkins threw for 299 yards against Mountain West opponent Fresno State, though a large portion of it came after the Aggies trailed 24-0 and were in a position where they needed to pass to get back in the game.
Saturday’s matchup will be the 110th meeting between the two schools. Although the series has been competitive as of late, UNM has historically dominated with a 71-33-5 overall head-to-head record.
UNM won the most recent contest last year in Las Cruces 42-25, but the Aggies were victorious last time they came to Albuquerque — withstanding a late rally by Tuioti, a performance that put him on the map and in contention to be a starting quarterback — to hold on for a 30-28 win in 2017.
The Lobos will try to avoid a 1-2 start for the seventh time in the past eight seasons. Ironically, it was last season — not one of the three bowl eligible seasons — where UNM broke that streak and started 2-1.
The Lobos will host the Aggies in Dreamstyle Stadium at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The television broadcast will be carried on AT&T Sportsnet.