The New Mexico Lobos host the Boise State Broncos while trying do something they were never in a position to do last year: win three games. However unlikely it may be, the Broncos still need to be wary of a team that's buying into their new head coach's schemes and dreams.
Boise State's stellar secondary will be relegated to a supporting role against the Lobos' attack. New Mexico passes so rarely that they are only averaging 60 yards per game through the air.
Thus, the onus to keep the Lobos at two wins will fall on the shoulders of others, so let's check out the players tasked with stopping the upset bid.
Joe Southwick, Quarterback
There is no way to sugarcoat it, the Broncos offense has been horrendous this year. Despite rolling up 39 points against Miami of Ohio, they are still 109th in the country in scoring.
Against New Mexico, Joe Southwick will probably not need to lead a continuous parade to the end zone to avoid the loss. Yet, they still need to score once and, more importantly, avoid turnovers.
Southwick has a chance to get his season on track considering the Lobos defense gives up just over 32 points per game. That's not an opportunity he can afford to waste.
Demarcus Lawrence and Sam Ukwuachu, Defensive Ends
The defensive ends will have a large role this week. The triple-option offense that New Mexico employs will require the quarterback to read the end on each play. Depending on where the end steps, either B.R. Holbrook or Cole Gautsche will hand off to the fullback, cut it upfield or pitch out to the back.
Thus, the ends must be sure to keep their contain and not get overly aggressive. If the quarterback is able to get by the end with the option threat still intact, the Lobos will become dangerous.
Lawrence shouldn't have any problems. He's established himself as an outstanding end with 20 tackles, including three for a loss.
Tommy Smith, Middle Linebacker
Anytime the quarterback actually gives to the fullback or turns it up behind him, Smith must meet the ballcarrier in the hole. Otherwise, New Mexico will consistently gain three-to-five yards and milk the clock.
The less possessions for both teams, the better the chance for an upset. You can't run away from a lesser opponent if you don't have the ball, and better talent generally prevails with more opportunities.
Lastly, he also needs to ensure that he doesn't overrun on his inside-out pursuit, opening cutback lanes for the backs.
J.C. Percy, Linebacker
Anytime a team faces an option opponent, the leading tackler will figure heavily into the result. For Boise State, that man is J.C. Percy, who is tops on the team with 25 tackles.
More than likely, he will often be responsible for the pitch man while the defensive end is preoccupied with the quarterback. He must be sure not to get pulled in just because the defensive end has the signal-caller wrapped. If he does, the quarterback can pitch late, which will provide the back with a prime opportunity to break off a long run.
The offense will likely be fine, but the triple-option presents a serious challenge for any defense. So long as the Broncos remain disciplined in their assignments, they should return from New Mexico with an easy victory.