The Sun Bowl will be whited for the 2014 edition of the Battle of I-10 as the 2-0 New Mexico State Aggies look to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 1999.
The Miners, who enter at 1-1, will look to derail those hopes and extend their advantage in the series to 55-35-2, while also extending their current series winning streak to six.
New Mexico State comes in with wins over Cal Poly and Georgia State, having won 28-10 over Poly in Cruces and 34-31 over Georgia State in Atlanta.
In both contests, the Aggies got off to slow starts, but were able to weather the storm and overcome significant deficits. A week ago, they trailed 17-0 midway through the the 2nd, before dominating the second half of the game to come away with the three point victory.
The Miners on the other hand, opened up the season with a 31-24 victory over the New Mexico Lobos, but were unable to capitalize on a couple opportunities against Texas Tech a week ago, and wound up falling 30-26.
New Mexico State's offense is led by quarterback Tyler Rogers. The sophomore has opened up the season by completing 60.6% of his passes for 399 yards, 5 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Alongside Rogers in the backfield is freshman running back Larry Rose III. He's averaging 119 yards a game after racking up 238 yards on 47 carries. That's good for a 5.1 yard per carry average.
Wideouts Jerrel Brown and Teldrick Morgan enter as Rogers favorite targets on the outside. Brown, a senior, has hauled in 10 balls for 101 yards, while the sophomore Morgan has grabbed 14 for 140 yards and three scores.
The Aggie defense is led by senior defensive end Jay Eakins, linebackers Rodney Butler (soph.) and Derek Ibekwe, and sophomore defensive back King Davis III. Look for those those names called quite a bit.
For the Miners, senior signal caller Jameill Showers leads the way, and although he has completed well under 50% of his passes, he has done a good job protecting the football.
The good news? Showers isn't relied on too heavily to throw the football, as the Miners boast the leading rusher in the nation in sophomore Aaron Jones, and arguably the best run game in all of Conference USA.
Jones has amassed 384 yards and 5 scores in his first two contests, averaging 8.5 yards per carry (45 attempts). Senior Nathan Jeffery will spell Jones when necessary, and he's racked up 106 yards on 22 carries.
Miner wideouts haven't done a ton of work thus far, but senior Jarrad Shaw enters as the team's leading receiver, hauling in 7 catches for 119 yards and one touchdown. Senior Ian Hamilton and junior Autrey Golden are two others to keep an eye on.
Defensively, the Miners are led by linebackers Alvin Jones (fresh.) and Anthony Puente (sen.) and senior defensive backs Adrian James and Jameel Erving. Jones has tallied 6 tackles in each of the first two contests, while Erving has had 8 in each, and Puente racked up 11 against UNM. James has the Miners' only interception.
All in all, this could turn out to be a very interesting game. New Mexico State has gotten off to slow starts, while the Miners have gotten off to fast starts, however, both teams have flipped those scripts as the game has gone on.
While both teams are young, the Aggies enter as one of the youngest in the nation. That youth could turn out to be somewhat of a hindrance in rivalry game such as this one.
One thing is for sure, the winner of this game will be whoever is able to control the ball offensively. And, considering the Miners' ability to move the football on the ground so far this season, one would have to assume that would continue Saturday night.
Also, considering the Miners size advantage in the trenches, the Miners should be able to control the line of scrimmage, opening up holes for the running backs, and giving Showers time to throw when necessary.
The Miners should be able to jump out to an early 10 or 14 point lead, the question will be though whether or not they are able to maintain it. Something tells me that this defense will be ready, and the Aggies will be unable to contain the likes of Jones, Jeffery, Golden, Laufasa and the rest of the Miners' stable.
Miners 38, Aggies 17