Here are my five keys as the Aggies get ready to host Fresno State on Saturday night....
1) Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews: You cannot talk about Mathews enough, the nation's leading rusher with 974 yards on the ground. He can do it all — Mathews runs with speed and power and can rumble in between the tackles as well as burst into the open field. The Aggie defense has faced good running backs throughout the season, coming back with mixed results. The team has given up 186.3 yards per game on the ground this season. Last week, the team was flat-out bad against Louisiana Tech, giving up 315 rushing yards on 56 carries. Overall, the Aggie defense gave up 540 yards to La. Tech. A similar performance against Fresno State this weekend, and Mathews will have a field day.
2) Fresno State wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu: Mathews garners the headlines, but this Bulldogs' wide receiver has considerable talent. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Ajirotutu is big and athletic. With his 21 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns, he can break the game open on his own. And he has compliments lining up next to him. Fellow wideout Devon Wylie leads the team with four receiving touchdowns while three of Marlon Moore's seven catches have gone for TDs. Moore averages 21.3 yards per reception. Yikes.
3) Aggie ball control: Last week against Louisiana Tech, the Aggies recorded 142 total yards and six first downs. For those non-football fans out there, that's not good. Well, there's no time to mope, especially with the high-octane Fresno State Bulldogs coming to town. NMSU ranks dead last in the NCAA with 250.14 yards per game, yet, outside of last week, have done a good job controlling the clock. The Aggies need to do a better job this weekend and win time of possession. At the very least, a successful approach will keep the Bulldogs offense on the sidelines. And, NMSU might get some points along the way.
4) Special teams: With a punchless offensive attack, the Aggies need to flourish in this category week-in and week-out. Kyle Hughes needs to punt well and cash in on field goal attempts when the opportunity presents itself. Marcus Anderson and Tonny Glynn need to establish good field position for the Aggies on punt and kickoff returns, respectively. And, NMSU cannot allow Fresno State to capitalize on the Bulldogs' strong special teams units as well. FSU kick returner A.J. Jefferson is one of the best in the business, while the team has gotten strong years from punter Ryan Malone and field goal kicker Kevin Goessling. The Aggies will fight fire with fire in this one.
5) Breaking the curse: The Aggies are 0-15 lifetime against the Bulldogs and Fresno State is 8-0 in Las Cruces. Fresno State head coach Pat Hill holds a career 4-0 record against the Aggies. In actuality, past Aggie teams have matched up well with the Bulldogs, as the last three meetings between the two teams have been decided by seven points or less. How will the Aggies fare this year? The team has surprised at various points this season. Saturday's game will be a tall order.