UTEP O-Line vs. NMSU D-Line
When Sean Kugler arrived at UTEP, he promised to build his team the right way, which is along the line of scrimmage. After three years of building, Kugler now has a significantly upgraded offensive line to show for his efforts. This year's line is literally the largest offensive line in the nation and one of the deepest UTEP O-Lines the program has ever seen. Everything is in place to see if they can now become one of the best O-Lines in UTEP history.
In this match-up versus NMSU, UTEP will be starting an O-Line that averages 6'4, 320 pounds and has a total of six returning linemen with starting experience. In total, UTEP's two-deep offensive line has an incredible 86 combined career starts. They will be matching up with a NMSU defensive front that averages 6'2, 268 pounds.
On average, UTEP's O-Line will have a 52-pound per man advantage over NMSU's D-Line. In addition to the glaring size difference, NMSU will also be dealing with an experience mismatch, as their four starting defensive lineman combined to make just 12 starts last year and they produced just 67 combined tackles over the 2015 entire season.
Games are usually won along the line of scrimmage. Can NMSU find ways to offset what initially looks to be a mismatch?
Tyler Rogers vs. UTEP Secondary
NMSU quarterback Tyler Rogers has thrown for an impressive 609 yards and five touchdowns against UTEP over the past two seasons. He is now bringing that significant amount of experience and production to the Sun Bowl for Round 3. He will be facing UTEP's Secondary, which is another group where UTEP returns a good amount of experience.
All four of UTEP's starters in the secondary have starting experience and they have 57 combined career starts. Both of UTEP's corners started as Freshmen last year. They came on strong at the end of the season and then looked even better during spring ball.
This match-up is intriguing as the talent and experience appears to be strong on both sides of this match-up, however, Rogers could have an advantage as he will be running the same offensive system which has produced a lot of previous success.
Meanwhile UTEP's secondary will be making a major adjustment. After playing 90% man-to-man coverage, the UTEP DB's will now have to adjust to playing 90% zone coverage.
Zone coverage requires a cohesive unit that plays together as one, where the group knows how to work together, who to pass-off, and who to pick-up. This game will be the very first opportunity for the Miner DB’s to get experience running their new zone coverage's under live fire.
But they will have the tough task of having to do this do against a veteran passer who has had success against them in the past.
Larry Rose III Vs. Aaron Jones
This was supposed to be the highlight match-up, which was talked about all summer long and was even gaining attention from people outside of the area. The two running backs are arguably the best player's on each of these two teams and both have a chance to achieve greatness, this year, and at the next level.
Larry Rose already holds the NMSU single season rushing record and with 1,933 more yards over his final two seasons he would become NMSU's all-time leading rusher.
Aaron Jones would also become his school's all-time leading rusher as well, if he is able to rush for 1,235 more yards. Both players have two years of eligibility left and if healthy, both players could have a chance at reaching the 5,000 yard career rushing mark, which has only been accomplished by 20 college players since 1956.
So why is this incredible match-up listed third instead of first?
Because both stars are coming off of injury and Rose’s recent surgery has left the match-up in jeopardy of happening.
Jones has had almost a full year to recover from last year's season ending ankle injury. While Rose had sports hernia surgery just a few weeks ago and is officially questionable for the game.
Will Aaron Jones have any early rust to dust off after missing almost 12 months of game action?
The question regarding Rose, is that even if he is able to play in this game, what type of condition will be in, after missing the past couple of weeks recovering.