1) Nevada rushing attack: This is a unit that sports two 1,000-yard rushers and could possibly have three by season’s end. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a standout athlete, who will hurt the opposition with his ability to tuck the ball and take off. No. 1 running back Vai Taua moves with authority while his backup, Luke Lippincott, would be a starter on most teams, as he’s broken loose for 866 yards on 114 carries. The trio has rushed for 29 touchdowns on the season, while the entire Wolf Pack team had ran for 3,531 yards and 40 TDs. Good luck putting the clamps down on that.
2) Aggie passing attack: Every week it seems that we put this down in our “keys.” Well, we’re back at it again, because the unit needs to produce — and hasn’t for the majority of the season. Jeff Fleming is the undisputed starter now, completing 11-of-21 pass attempts last week for 111 yards while rushing for 16 yards on five carries. He wasn’t sacked on the evening, while throwing two interceptions. The Aggie offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in 17 quarters. That won’t cut the cake against a Wolf Pack team that lives in the endzone. You wanna beat Nevada? You gotta score TDs. If you don’t, you can wave bye-bye to your chances at victory.
3) NMSU offensive tackles: David Norman and Dwayne Barton, meet Nevada defensive ends Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch. The duo has combined for 13.5 sacks on the season, and will be looking to come off the edge frequently tonight. The Aggie passing attack has struggled enough this season. The last thing the team needs is Fleming on his back throughout the evening. Unfortunately for NMSU, getting after the QB happens to be Basped’s and Moch’s specialty. For an offensive line that has played good this year, this matchup is one worth watching.
4) Colin Kaepernick: Unsure about going to the game this evening? Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick is worth the price of admission. The kid can run (123 carries, 1015 yards, 14 touchdowns), pass (134-of-220, 1,638 yards, 14 touchdowns) and, at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, is a sight to see in the football game. The Aggies will need to somehow contain him and prevent him from breaking out into the open field. Last year, NMSU was able to bottle him up some, forcing him to be a passer first and Kaerpernick, although talented, can be streaky throwing the football. Another key to stopping the junior signal caller? Hitting him and hitting him hard. Those long runs could be a bit harder to come by if the defense is laying the wood.
5) Seth Smith: Smith has been nursing a banged-up shoulder and has been in-and-out of the Aggie lineup the last two weeks. It’s a shame, because it takes away from what has been a strong season for the junior running back. Smith has gained 734 yards on 173 carries this season, good enough for a 4.2 yards-per carry average despite defenses gearing up to shut him down on a weekly basis. The team could use a big effort out of him tonight. But will it come if he’s not healthy? Time will tell. Another stat to keep an eye on: if he remains in the Aggie lineup the final three games of the season, Smith has a legitimate shot at cracking the 1,000-yard mark. Certainly something to be proud of for a featured runner who used to be an afterthought.