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There wasn’t much to complain about for New Mexico head coach Bob Davie last year. The Lobos finished 7-6 and made it to a bowl game, losing to Arizona by eight points. That came after three years of a combined 11-26 record, so a bowl game was definitely fun to see for fans. However, Davie still wasn’t completely satisfied. The defense is still a weak link and in the bottom half of the MWC, while the offense actually took a step back.
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Because of that offensive step back, Davie decided to mix things around on the offensive end, changing where the coaches take charge. But really, the thing that matters is that the Lobos return most of their skill players.
That starts with quarterbacks Lamar Jordan and Austin Apodaca. Jordan was the better option last year, surprisingly in both facets of the game, although five passing TDs and eight INTs doesn’t say much. He did run for 807 yards and nine touchdowns, though. Apodaca was supposed to be the better passer, but he only threw for one touchdown and a miserable six interceptions. Jordan was more of the big-play option and the offense will look to find more consistency this season.
That starts with Jordan and running back Teriyon Gipson (850 yards, 6 TDs) in the backfield as well as Daryl Chestnut and Romell Jordan in the Pistol option offense. Top receiver Dameon Gamblin (424 yards, 2 TDs) also returns so at the least all of the skill guys know the offense a little better. That should help them score at least 30 points per game (29.9 last year), although the offensive line will be a question. They return two guys, both on the left, but will have mostly upperclassmen across the unit.
Defense has always been the bigger problem for New Mexico, but at the least this season will have experience. They return most of the starters from a year ago, so some kind of improvement will be expected from a group that gave up 28.4 points per game a year ago. Last year was still a decent improvement from the previous season if that says anything.
In a 3-3-5 scheme, the Lobos return their front six led by some of the best in the conference in end Nik D’Avanzo and linebacker Dakota Cox. Most of those guys in the two-deep are seniors as well, so experience won’t be an issue for this group. However, the secondary is still a question, since they were the worst pass defense in the MWC last year and have two returning starters. Either way, another step up for the defense is a possibility for UNM.
Schedule wise, the Lobos get a workable non-conference slate that should help them reach seven wins again with a road game at Rutgers possibly being their only loss. Granted, nothing is a given for this team. But even more favorable may be their conference schedule that only has three true road games, as they get to play Air Force down in Dallas. The Lobos likely have the Boise State game circled on the schedule, aiming to take down the conference’s best for the second straight year. Even if they can’t upset the Broncos, beating teams like Nevada and San Jose State is a better possibility with both coming at home this year.
UNM’s over/under was sitting at 7 in June with the over at -190 at 5Dimes, so bettors took notice of their schedule already. The Lobos could compete for eight wins this year, just because their defense could take another step, but the MWC title game is still likely out of reach.
2016 New Mexico Lobos Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. South Dakota
Sept. 10 at New Mexico State
Sept. 17 at Rutgers
Oct. 1 vs. San Jose State
Oct. 7 vs. Boise State
Oct. 15 vs. Air Force (Cotton Bowl Stadium)
Oct. 22 vs. Louisiana Monroe
Oct. 29 at Hawaii
Nov. 5 vs. Nevada
Nov. 12 at Utah State
Nov. 19 at Colorado State
Nov. 26 vs. Wyoming
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