UCLA Bruins vs. New Mexico State Aggies Complete Game Preview
After an emotional victory against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the No. 13 UCLA Bruins will hope to avoid an upset against the New Mexico State Aggies.
To put it mildly, the Aggies (0-3) have had a rough start to the season. New Mexico State is allowing a porous 47.3 points per game. Texas rolled up an eye-popping 715 yards of total offense against the Aggies in the season opener.
UCLA is riding high after coming back to defeat Nebraska by 20 points on the road. Jim Mora's group has the look of a team that could threaten for a BCS bid.
Here's everything you need to know:
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
Place: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: Sirius XM Radio
Spread: UCLA -43, per VEGAS.com.
UCLA Keys to Victory
Don't turn the ball over
It's very simple for UCLA in this contest. There's no secret that the Bruins have a considerable advantage in athleticism, depth, skill and overall talent. NMSU has next to no chance for the upset if the Bruins don't cough the ball up multiple times.
The Aggies' defensive numbers have been downright atrocious thus far. Not only is New Mexico State allowing 47.3 points per game, but the Aggies are also No. 111 nationally in total defense. UCLA should be able to run an incredibly vanilla offensive game plan and score at least 40 points.
Showing up to the stadium
Barring the bus breaking down on the way to the Rose Bowl, UCLA will win this game.
New Mexico State Keys to Victory
Run the ball effectively
The Aggies need to run the ball with some consistency. Chewing up time on the clock will minimize the time that UCLA's vaunted offense is on the field.
However, NMSU hasn't been able to rush the ball very well in the first three weeks. The Aggies' backfield has rushed for only a 3.1 yards per carry average. Tailbacks Brandon Betancourt and Germi Morrison have to play well in order for NMSU to have any chance for the upset.
Defend...anyway the team can
It will be a tall order defending against UCLA's spread offense. Noel Mazzone's group is fifth nationally in total offense. Free safety Davis Cazares leads the team in tackles with 34. Linebackers Clint Barnard and Trashaun Nixon are also among the team leaders in stops.
It would make complete sense from the Aggies' point of view to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at UCLA. The more exotic and unconventional the blitz packages and coverages are, the more of a chance that the Bruins could get confused.
Players to Watch for UCLA
It may be a bit unconventional to mention a reserve freshman safety as a player to watch. Goodman was a 4-star prospect in 2013 (per Scout). He was expected to come in and contribute right away.
After playing in the season opener versus Nevada, he didn't get a ton of time against Nebraska. He voiced his displeasure about his lack of play time on Twitter. Since then, Mora has downplayed the incident.
Per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, Mora said that "Tahaan and I had a conversation. It was very positive."
He also had this to say...
"It's an adjustment for some of these guys. They are four and five star recruits. They have never sat on the bench. These guys have to realize this is always going to be about the team first. It's not always an easy lesson to learn. But they're learning it."
Expect Goodman to see quite a bit of play time Saturday night. The more Goodman develops as a player, the deeper UCLA's backfield becomes.
Perkins scored a touchdown against the Cornhuskers this past Saturday. The redshirt freshman from Queens Creek, Ariz. is entrenched as the primary reserve to starter Jordon James. He's third on the team in rushing through two games with 10 carries for 77 yards. Against the Aggies, expect him to get double-digit carries.
Players to Watch for New Mexico State
New Mexico State will turn to true freshman signal-caller King Davis III against the Bruins.
Davis mentioned that "this is a great opportunity, and this week we have to step it up. We have to have a good week of practice." Davis played well in games against Minnesota and UTEP. He's an elusive player that will look to utilize his legs on zone read plays.
Surprisingly, the Aggies rank in the top 50 nationally in passing offense. Receivers Joshua Bowen and Joseph Matthews figure to be Davis' top targets.
It's asking an awful lot for a true freshman making his first start to defeat a ranked team on the road. However, Davis' ability to run the football adds a dimension that UCLA will have to compensate for. NMSU isn't expected to win the game. That fact alone should allow Davis to perform without any pressure.
The tailback from Las Cruses, New Mexico will get the call as the starter at tailback. He's usurped the starting job from Germi Morrison due to fumble problems, according to head coach Doug Martin.
Betancourt has a paltry 1.9 yards per carry average on the season, rushing for only 37 yards on 19 carries. He'll need to produce at a much higher rate if the Aggies are to have any hope of a victory in this contest.
What They Are Saying
New Mexico State's head coach Doug Martin on UCLA: "I feel that we are more mentally prepared going into this game. They have a really good defensive line. We just have to keep studying film on them."
Martin on his quarterback, King Davis III: "When [Davis] got in against Minnesota, he made people miss and he did the same against UTEP. There's a lot of upside to King and he will continue to make more progress. The more he plays, the better he is going to get."
UCLA head coach Jim Mora on the game (per the Los Angeles Times):
"We have to find a way to get focused for this game and find a way to play better. There are a lot of areas for improvement on this football team. We've got a vision here of what we want to be and we've got to work on that every day."
UCLA 59, New Mexico State 10
No disrespect to the Aggies is intended by this statement, but this game will essentially be a glorified scrimmage for the Bruins.
NMSU hasn't reached the postseason since 1960. In the last five years, the Aggies have won only 13 games. The program is virtually stuck in college football purgatory.
UCLA should have the luxury of resting its starters for the majority of the second half. A comfortable lead theoretically will also offer the opportunity for many freshmen and sophomores to get quality time on the field.
There's no overstating the importance of developing inexperienced players, even if it does come in the midst of an absolute blowout victory.