1) Idaho quarterback Brian Reader: Reader hasn’t progressed this year and was down last week against Louisiana Tech, completing just 19 of 47 pass attempts while tossing three interceptions. Still, Reader has shown in pockets that he is capable — a senior QB, he replaced Nathan Enderle, who is now a backup with the Chicago Bears. Reader’s performance in today’s game will likely dictate which team comes out on top.
2) Aggies fast start: We write this in every game preview, so why stop now? The Aggies have shown when they get up early on the opposition, they’re in the driver’s seat. They took a 14-point first-half lead on Minnesota and led from start to finish. They were up 21-0 two weeks ago against New Mexico and never looked back. Idaho is a similar situation: get up early, and give a run-deficient defense some cushion. With that being said, you can bet the Vandals will be looking to do the same.
3) Playing at home: Truthfully, the Aggies haven’t played particularly well in Las Cruces. A 44-24 loss to Ohio in the season opener wasn’t competitive until too late. A 16-10 loss against UTEP was one the Aggies let get away. This one should feature a nice-sized crowd — mainly because of the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign surrounding the game. It’s also a very winnable game for the Aggies. They have to do it for the home fans.
4) Matching Vandals intensity, physicality: You know the way followers of the Aggies view the Vandals as a winnable game? Well, reality check: Idaho views NMSU as the same thing. This is going to be a desperate team in must-win mode, meaning they will come out ready to go from the opening whistle. Head coach Robb Akey has done a fine job at Idaho and his teams play hard and with confidence. The Aggies must match that mindset.
5) Score more points: This might be the most obvious key we’ve ever come up with. Allow us to explain: The Aggies last time out on Oct. 1, they dropped 42 points on New Mexico — their best offensive output in some time. Can they replicate that? As for Idaho, their offense has struggled this year, but will this be the week it gets healthy? The Aggie defense has to step up and hold down the Vandals.