Run defense: We can’t hammer this point home enough. The Aggies need to contain the Miners on the ground and establish a rushing attack of their own. NMSU’s defense has done some decent things this year, although surrendering the big play has been a problem throughout the first two weeks of the season (they’re giving up over 8 yards per carry to the opposition). If they can eliminate such sequences tonight against the Miners, a victory will be attainable.
Turnovers and special teams: In an evenly-matched contest, these two areas tend to be key factors in a given football game. Think back to two years ago, when the Aggies lost a goal-line fumble on their first possession, then saw UTEP take a fake-punt down to the NMSU goal-line leading to the go-ahead touchdown in the Miners 16-10 win in Las Cruces. NMSU has gotten off to a slow start from a special-teams standpoint this season, and tonight would be a good time to pick things. While the Aggies can’t afford to give away any points in that department, ball security will also be a key factor throughout.
Taking charge: The Aggies got out of the gates slowly last weekend against Minnesota, gaining just 24 yards in the first quarter and falling behind 13-0 early in the second period. Points figure to be scored in tonight’s game, and, on their home field in a contest they need, it wouldn’t hurt the Aggies to lay the first blow, play from ahead, and sustain such momentum for the evening’s entirety.
Jameill Showers: UTEP’s junior quarterback managed the game well last week in the team’s 42-35 overtime loss to New Mexico, although didn’t particularly stand out either. He completed 15 of 20 pass attempts for 119 yards and a touchdown, while adding 44 rushing yards on eight carries and a TD on the ground. Will UTEP unleash Showers more this evening? The Aggies will likely be focused on controlling the Miner rushing attack, meaning UTEP could elect to take more shots downfield with it's transfer quarterback from Texas A&M.
On equal ground: The Aggies have been big underdogs in each of their first two games, with early-season contests against BCS programs Texas and Minnesota kicking off the program’s 2013 season. Saturday the personnel should be more in the same ballpark, and the Aggies will learn an awful lot about their football team against a fellow mid-major program. Additionally for the Miners, they’ve only played one game to this point - last week against a New Mexico team that ran often (57 carries) yet seldom threw (just seven pass attempts for the entire game). Seeing how each team matches up in this one, and any wrinkles they might throw at each other, will be a telling sign.
Prediction: Figure points will be scored, and a very competitive game should unfold. Tough to predict with special teams and turnovers figuring to play such a key role. We’ll go with the home team by a field goal. NMSU 34, UTEP 31
IF YOU GO
Who: UTEP (0-1) at New Mexico State (0-2)
What: College football game, Week 3
Where: Aggie Memorial Stadium
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Radio: KGRT-FM 104; Vista-FM 98.7 (Spanish)
Spread: NMSU +4.5
Weather: Mostly sunny, high in the low-80s, 20 percent of rain
Tickets: Go to or call the Pan American Center ticket office at 575-646-1420. Fans can also purchase tickets at www.ticketmaster.com. Aggie Memorial Stadium ticket windows open at 3 p.m.