Which Aggies Should You Back in Arizona Bowl?

arizona bowl

Rainman M.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 2:30 PM GMT

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 2:30 PM GMT

New Mexico State (6-6) plays Utah State (6-6) on Dec. 29 at the Arizona Bowl in Tucson. Utah State is favored by 3.5 points in a battle of Aggies.

 

Free NCAAF Pick: Utah State -3.5Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

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Utah State Aggies vs. New Mexico State Aggies

Pocket passer Tyler Rogers leads New Mexico State's pass-first offense that ranks 2nd in pass play percentage. Rogers throws so frequently partly because of his lack of run support. NMSU is led by Larry Rose's 4.7 yards per carry. Rose's ability to make his team two-dimensional on offense, and thus to give the defense more to worry about, has been crucial for NMSU in a betting sense. The Aggies are 4-0 ATS when Rose averages more than 4.5 yards per carry. Conversely, all 5 of its non-covers came when Rose averages less than 4.5 YPC. These Aggies have failed to cover 4 out of their last 5 games because Rose has been struggling more as the season progressed.

Rose's performance should be crucial vs a Utah State team who allows the fifth-highest run play percentage. Teams typically try to run against Utah State in order to avoid the strength of its defense. USU ranks 47th in opposing passer rating despite having faced the likes of Alex Hornibrook of Wisconsin, John Wolford of Wake Forest and Nick Stevens of Colorado State -- quarterbacks who are a higher caliber than Rogers. Teams would rather try to exploit the weakness of Utah State's defense. New Mexico State, in mounting a run-heavy offense against Utah State, would be uncomfortable considering their proclivity to pass.

In order to achieve a balanced offense, consisting of a strong pass and run attack, two things need to happen for NMSU: Its defense needs to keep the game close enough and Rose needs to run well. Neither seems likely.

From Sept. 30-Nov. 18, NMSU allowed 35+ points in every game. It got to face two teams outside the top 100 in total offense in the past two weeks. But Utah State ranks 71st in the category. USU likes to score by achieving turnovers. Rogers is vulnerable to interceptions, having thrown 16 on the season, mostly away from home. Moreover, Utah State boasts a respectable rush attack led by LaJuan Hunt's 6.8 YPC in November and the big run plays of receivers Gerold Bright and Aaren Vaughns.

Quarterback Jordan Love, who took over for Kent Myers during the Wyoming game and kept his team competitive against the Cowboys' highly-ranked pass defense, provides Utah State's offense with balance. Unlike Rogers, he doesn't make too many costly errors, having thrown just 2 interceptions in his 5 games as a starter. These Aggies' offense should benefit from the good field position achieved by their turnover-hungry defense, the relatively mistake-free play of Love and the strength of their rush attack.

The Verdict

New Mexico State achieved bowl eligibility for the first time in 57 years in the final seconds of their last game. Utah State, which has made a bowl in 6 of their last 7 seasons, will not simply be excited to be in Tucson. The USU Aggies expect to win and should cover behind a well-tested defense that can limit the strength of New Mexico State's offense.

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