New Mexico State Aggies (4-5, 2-3) at Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (4-5, 3-2)
Location: Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA
Time: 4:00 PM CT
Line: NMSU -4.5, O/U 65.5
History: New Mexico State leads all-time series 5-4, has won the last two meetings
Welcome to the tipping point. This isn’t a literal elimination game for these two teams, but it’s pretty darn close.
For the Ragin’ Cajuns, they’ll get a good shot at a fifth win next week against Georgia Southern, but if they don’t win this week they’ll have to win in Boone to go to a bowl game, which will be a lot more challenging. For the Aggies, they get to end the season with a pair of home games against beatable teams in Idaho and South Alabama, but if you’ve spent any time watching those two teams (or the Aggies) this season, you know to not assume anything.
New Mexico State
The Aggies have more or less lived up to expectations this season, in the sense that they’ve only had one real game (the season opener at Arizona State) where all the numbers suggest that they should have won the game, but they didn’t. They were fortunate to make things close against Troy, but otherwise, they’ve mostly won what they should have and lost what they should have.
The defense continues to play just well enough to not be the main reason they lose, and their biggest issue has been burnout induced by an offense that loses juice late in the game; in their last two losses, they’ve been outscored 49-7 in the last 13 minutes of the game. In those 26 minutes, the Aggies have produced four turnovers, three three-and-outs, a turnover on downs and a touchdown in nine drives.
NMSU is a score first and ask questions later team; their wins and losses generally line up with how well the offense plays, and they are 0-3 in games where the offense is average or worse. The defense has shut down the two worst offenses in FBS (UTEP and Georgia Southern) but has otherwise been “good enough to be improved over last year”.
Turnovers are always a great indicator of how the night will go, as the Aggies are +5 in their wins and -6 in their losses; if they don’t turn it over six times against Appalachian State, they probably win. The terrifying thing is they’ve actually had above-average turnover luck this season, otherwise, things might be worse.
NMSU does well at hanging around, as Troy is the only Forgotten 5 team they’ve faced who has led by more than 10 points any time in the first three quarters, but they need some offensive momentum coming out of the locker room for a win to be a sure thing.
The Cajuns have been a feast-or-famine team all season long. Their two best offensive performances of the season have come against what are statistically the worst and second-worst defenses in all of FBS (Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa). We can’t count their win against Southeast Louisiana in that statement because the offense only scored 35 points and they only won the game in regulation because SELA decided to go for two instead of for overtime.
Speaking of defense, the one located in Lafayette may have some flashes now and then but they’ve been largely terrible.
- Yes, two weeks ago they beat South Alabama and gave up only 368 yards and two scores (one with a minute left)
- Yes, they held Texas State to 325 yards and seven points
- Yes, they held Idaho to 279 yards and 16 points
However, that’s only three games, and every game is important in this figuring. In the other six games the Cajuns have played, their best performance was the 480 yards and 45 points they gave up to Texas A&M. Oh, and did I mention that those three offenses in that list I just gave you are also the three worst offenses they’ve faced this season?
Injuries have bit the defense all year, and have started to do the same for the offense. Just as quarterback Andre Nunez is nearly back from a concussion, Levi Lewis is trying to work his way back from an ankle injury, so it’s uncertain yet who will start.
This game matches up well for the Aggies. They are facing a team that has struggled to stop any offense that’s at least above average, and possess one of the best passing attacks the Cajuns will see all season. That said, Tyler Rogers needs to make smart decisions; the Aggies are 1-3 when he throws multiple interceptions, and the Cajuns have the same trend of positive turnover margin in wins and negative in losses. The Aggies are also coming off a bye with extra time to prepare for a team that hasn’t been healthy and may or may not have a clue who is starting under center before Saturday.
I like the Aggies, who have a potent offense going up against the 16th-worst passing defense in the country (by yards), and who get to send an aggressive pass rush against a Cajun front line that has already surrendered 26 sacks this season. I think they spend a chunk of time romping on the ULL defense, but that time will come all in one half or the other and the rest will be a handful of lost possessions. It won’t be pretty, but the Aggies will get one game closer to ending their 57-year bowl streak tomorrow.
New Mexico State Aggies 41, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns 31