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New Mexico State
New Mexico State finished with three wins last year, which was better than the four previous seasons. The Aggies actually won three straight games in the second half of last year, all coming in conference play. The reason for their three wins was an improved offense that finished in the top half of the conference, posting 28.6 points per game.
Instead of a quarterback, it's a running back that takes center stage of the offense with Larry Rose III. He rushed for 1,651 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago to go with 30 receptions and 283 more yards. Rose was easily the best player on the team as head coach Doug Martin took over play calling. The problem for NMSU is the pieces around Rose.
The offensive line has a few holes with only two returning starters expected back, both seniors. That won't help matters, while quarterback will remain a competition heading into the fall. The main battle should be between Tyler Rogers, who played in four games last year before breaking his thumb. They brought in Tyler Matthews to compete for the spot, a former QB at TCU and Southern Miss, places he failed to win starting jobs at.
The receivers are mostly new as well with Tyrian Taylor (39 receptions, 691 yards, 4 TDs) leading the way with Gregory Hogan (370 yards, 5 TDs). Outside of them, it's mostly Rose and a few junior college transfers. With mediocre quarterback play, this offense could be just as good, as long as Rose is healthy.
The same can't be said about the defense that was one of the worst in the country last year, allowing 45 points per game. Given that stat, the three wins is fairly impressive. At the least, there is some hope for improvement as Martin brought in new coordinator Frank Spaziani, who last coached Boston College in 2012, where Martin came from.
The Aggies will try and build around their three starters returning at linebacker with Rodney Butler, Derek Ibekwe and Terrill Hanks. With the middle of the field set, it'll be more about building the roster outside of them. The front line has tons of questions and was beat up often last year. A couple guys return at safety, which should help, but corner is still an unknown. The goal will just be to allow less than 45 points per game and maybe that fourth win will be in the cards.
Finding a win in non-conference play will be difficult yet again, but New Mexico is beatable at home, as is UTEP. NMSU lost to the Miners 50-47 in overtime last year. And once again, a few Sun Belt wins are likely with Lafayette and Texas State both home games, two teams they beat last year.
Maybe the Aggies won't reach a bowl game, but with the offense expected to be as good and an improved defense, four or five wins are on the table. To get there, they'll need consistency at quarterback and to not allow 50 points every other game.
2016 New Mexico State Aggies Football Schedule
Sept. 3 at UTEP
Sept. 10 vs. New Mexico
Sept. 17 at Kentucky
Sept. 24 at Troy
Oct. 1 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Oct. 15 at Idaho
Oct. 22 vs. Georgia Southern
Oct. 29 at Texas A&M
Nov. 12 at Arkansas State
Nov. 19 vs. Texas State
Nov. 26 vs. Appalachian State
Dec. 3 at South Alabama
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