This Saturday, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time---which will feel like 10:30 a.m. to the visitors from the mountain time zone---the Georgia Bulldogs will host the New Mexico St. Aggies between the hedges for what might fairly be characterized as the World’s Smallest Outdoor Hangover. Frankly, there’s a limit to how much data anyone really wants or needs regarding the Aggies, but still I am committed to bring you not a smidgen of minutiae or a secret stash of statistical insights, but instead . . . Too Much Information.
Here are the relevant details concerning this weekend’s showdown with New Mexico State:
Let’s begin with the basics. The Aggies exist, and they are in sixth place in the watered-down WAC, in which they are 1-3 in conference play. New Mexico State stands at 3-5 overall, but that trio of triumphs has come against the likes of the Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-6), the Idaho Vandals (1-7), and the New Mexico Lobos (0-8). Yeah, all right, I may have overstated the case when I claimed the Aggies existed, but, in any event, the Bulldogs are a lot better than the teams New Mexico State has defeated.
The Aggies average 122.1 yards per game on the ground, which puts them 94th in the nation in rushing offense. New Mexico State is right behind 93rd-ranked Ole Miss (123.1 rushing yards per game), and the ‘Dawgs held the Mississippi Rebels to 34 rushing yards in 60 minutes of play. New Mexico State shouldn’t be able to run the ball at all on Georgia, and, if Jarvis Jones gets loose again, the Aggies may finish the day with negative rushing yardage.
New Mexico State does, however, know how to throw the ball, as the Aggies rank 15th in Division I-A in aerial offense with 297.3 yards per game over the top. In that category, New Mexico State trails 14th-ranked Boise State (303.4 passing yards per game), and Georgia held the Boise St. Broncos a little more than 40 yards below their average, conceding 261 aerial yards in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
As I noted in the offseason, the Aggies’ fight song lacks originality, but it also contains mixed messages, proclaiming: "We’re here to do or die, Aggies, oh, Aggies, we’ll win this game or know the reason why." Well, which is it? Are their options to (a) do or (b) die, or are their options to (a) win this game or (b) know the reason why? In the context of football, "do" would seem synonymous with "win this game," but there would seem to be rather a significant difference between death and insisting upon being given a perfectly reasonable explanation for losing.
Incidentally, the next portion of the New Mexico State fight song proclaims: "And when we win this game, we’ll buy a keg of booze and drink it to the Aggies ‘til we wobble in our shoes." Here’s hoping the NMSU faithful don’t see fit to sing that song in Sanford Stadium on Saturday, because it’s liable to leave three suspended Bulldog running backs shaking their heads.
Speaking of suspended Bulldog running backs, Georgia will be shorthanded at the tailback spot this weekend, if by "shorthanded" you mean "without an available tailback who was on scholarship in July 2011." This should concern you somewhere between "mildly" and "not in the slightest," because New Mexico State ranks 111th in the country in rush defense. The Aggies give up 214.4 yards per game on the ground. I could run on these guys.
Against the eight teams presently comprising the Western Athletic Conference, the Red and Black are 5-0 all-time, with three of those victories coming against the Aggies. Georgia hosted New Mexico State in 1995, 2000, and 2002, winning by a combined 118-23 margin. This weekend, Mark Richt will become the first Bulldog head coach to face the Aggies twice.
By now, this is news to no one in Bulldog Nation, but it is 100 per cent clear where the Aggies have a distinct edge on the ‘Dawgs; namely, on kickoffs. New Mexico State ranks twelfth in the country in kickoff returns; the Aggies average 124.3 kickoff return yards per game, and they have returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Georgia ranks 108th in the country in kickoff coverage; the Bulldogs concede an average of 109.5 kickoff return yards per game, and they have allowed two kickoffs to be returned for touchdowns.
Uh, it’s New Mexico State? All right, how ‘bout this: New Mexico State averages 28.4 points and 418.5 yards per game, but look at the caliber of the competition against whom the Aggies have achieved those feats.
In their first eight games, the Aggies faced five teams ranked outside the top 80 nationally in total defense: Idaho (85th), UTEP (94th), San Jose State (95th), Minnesota (97th), and New Mexico (119th). Of the remaining three, one was ranked 64th (Nevada) and one was ranked 36th (Hawaii).
The only top 35 defense New Mexico State has encountered is the unit fielded by the Ohio Bobcats, who rank 19th in total defense. Georgia ranks seventh.
Come on, now. It’s New Mexico State. The likely worst-case scenario is that it’s like the 2007 Troy game, in which a high-octane, defensively-deficient visitor to the Classic City punched in a last-second touchdown to make the contest appear artificially close, but I don’t think that will happen here. Because of the dearth of experienced running backs available to play, I believe the rest of the team will take up the slack, particularly the defense. This one won’t get as ugly as it ought to get, but the Red and Black will win comfortably.
My Prediction: Georgia 35, New Mexico State 10.