Reasons why the Aggies will play better this week at Minnesota:
• General rule of thumb: Football teams get better from Week 1 to Week 2, in some cases making significant improvements. We don’t know exactly where NMSU stands here but certainly we can assume they will be better in certain areas after the coaching staff and team digest the film and work on their weaknesses — O-line, running game, pass rush and run defense.
• Offensive line will play better: This is a unit that was expected to at least be adequate for the Aggies and got flat-out beat last week. Last week’s play against Ohio should have been an embarrassment for this group and one would figure they will be motivated to turn things around. Mike Grady could start at center and the team will bring subs off the bench this week — something it didn’t do last Saturday. Last week’s starting center Sioeli Fakalata is expected to come in as a backup at center and guard and true freshman Valerian Ume-Ezeoke will also fill in inside. A better Aggie offensive line will mean the team should be better running the ball — can’t be worse than six yards on 23 carries. Note: college football counts quarterback sacks against rushing yards, so Manley’s three sacks last week affected those numbers. Either way the running game was horrible because the line didn’t block. I thought the backs ran hard, just tough to run over people all game. This area HAS to be better — it can’t be worse.
• How is Minnesota?: This team lost by just two to USC last week, but that 19-17 final score could be deceiving. Minnesota has an unimaginative offense with quarterback MarQuese Gray in the game — the team is run-heavy with the starting signal caller — although that should work in the Gophers favor against an Aggie defense that cannot stop the run. Perhaps a better scenario for the Aggies would be if true freshman quarterback Max Shortell enters the game, more of a classic throwing quarterback, as NMSU matches up better against a more balanced team as opposed to a run-heavy outfit. Offensively, the Aggies should move the ball on an average Gophers pass defense. Minnesota has been bad pressuring the quarterback the past two years — sound familiar Aggie fans? — and play zone defense and zone-blitz. This is a sign of a team that doesn’t have confidence to play man-to-man in the secondary. Sounds like a scenario that could work play to NMSU’s strength — throwing the ball downfield.
• The 20-point spread is fair: The Aggies will lose this game, but should play better than last week. Somewhere in the 14 to 21-point range is on target.
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