How far can heightened motivation and home-field advantage take a team in early December? Pretty darn far…according to Las Vegas.
Athletically, there isn’t much difference between South Alabama and New Mexico State as they prepare for a meeting in Las Cruces on December 2nd. The visitors are 4-7 and the hosts are 5-6. The schools have combined to go 0-3 against the Power-5. Each team under-performed against a weak opponent in their most recent outing.
But NMSU still has a shot to go to a bowl game with a win on Senior Day. That, plus the big passing arm of senior QB Tyler Rogers, has helped to install the Aggies as 10-point favorites.
Who: South Alabama Jaguars at New Mexico State Aggies
When: Saturday, December 2nd, 4:30 PM EST
Where: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM
Lines: USA (+10) at NMSU (-10) / O/U Total: (54)
The Jaguars are changing head coaches on the fly. Former HC Joey Jones resigned or was pushed out the door just over a week ago, 2 days after South Alabama lost to a pitiful Georgia Southern team 52-0.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for the collapse. USA was pretty good at times in 2017…and not just for a Sun Belt program. The Jags gave Ole Miss problems for 2 quarters in the opener, and later upset Troy and Arkansas State with resourceful defense and timely scoring.
Beating those opponents takes talent. But there has been a lack of consistently and spark under Jones, who presided over an offense that tried 2 quarterbacks in ’17 – juniors Dallas Davis and Cole Garvin – with little success while rushing for just 3.3 yards a carry.
As for the Aggies, they certainly didn’t look great last time out of the stables either. A pair of early touchdowns by RB Larry Rose III offered promise, but the NMSU offense sagged the rest of the way, slipping past the dreadful Idaho Vandals 17-10. Other wins on the schedule have been equally unimpressive.
But the team can play, as evidenced by a mid-season trip to Arkansas in which the Aggies were out-scored 14-0 at the start, then matched the Razorbacks drive-for-drive the rest of the way in a 42-24 loss. Arkansas stacked the box early and made the Sun Belt offense one-dimensional, but Rogers out-played Austin Allen anyway, passing for 300+ yards and 2 touchdowns.
Idaho blocked 2 field goal attempts by the Aggies last week, a sign that NMSU was looking ahead and not concentrating on business. That vibe should disappear this week as the team puts it all on the line hoping to finish 6-6 and make a postseason appearance.
The kicker (excuse the pun) is that Jones is sticking around to coach one final game for the collapsing Jags. An interim head coach can be a momentum swing. An already-departing HC is a drag.
Take the Aggies to cover (-10) points.