We take a look at tonight's New Mexico State vs. Rice football game, beginning at 6 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium:
Coming off a bye: This is one thing the Aggies have going for them against a heavily favored Rice team. Having two weeks to prepare is a big plus, and it will be interesting to see if the Aggies implement any new wrinkles into their gameplan. Some defensive adjustments have been made — safety George Callender has been moved to outside linebacker, while Trashaun Nixon has slid to middle linebacker — in an effort to get more speed on the field. Head coach Doug Martin also talked about opening up competition at every position and having possible movement on the depth chart during the off week. Perhaps some further personnel changes will unfold, and new players could get an opportunity to step up.
The 0-6 Aggies: NMSU is still looking for its first win of the 2013 season and is riding a 17-game losing streak. While the team will have its hands full against Rice (the Owls hold a 4-2 record and have the look of a quality club) NMSU does welcome in Abilene Christian next week. Will the skid end soon? One or two wins would make a difference for everyone involved. If the team beat, say, UTEP in Week 3 of this season, for instance, the mood could be much different at this point of the season.
Control the ball: Perhaps the best chance the Aggies have at competing tonight is by having a ball-controlled offense, and in turn using the clock to their advantage. Establishing an effective running game and throwing to the short-to-intermediate zones in the passing attack would allow the Aggies to at least have a chance in the time-of-possession battle. Success in this area would keep the Owls’ offense — and, in turn, the Aggie defense — on the sidelines.
Run defense: This has been a major weakness for the Aggies and it’s tough seeing it being that much better tonight. Rice enters the game with the 40th-ranked rushing offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision (200-yards-per game) and has a balanced offense (a variation of running plays and the ability to throw the ball as well). The Aggie defense has played well in spurts, although the numbers don’t lie: last in the NCAA in rush defense (340 yards per game) and scoring defense (48 points per contest).
Unknown for Aggies: Who will play the majority of the game at quarterback for the Aggies? Will Travaughn Colwell see playing time for essentially the first time of 2013 (this time possibly at running back)? Will wide receiver Austin Franklin have his first breakout performance since returning from academic ineligibility two games ago? Will the Aggie defense have any success against the run? And can the team compete against the Owls? Plenty of questions face the Aggies following their off week.
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