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New Mexico State Aggies preview

Larry Rose III was New Mexico State's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2011. AP Photo/Andres Leighton

The Aggies return 18 starters, including every leader on an offense that started 10 underclassmen last season. If the speed on defense can compensate for a lack of size, NMSU could make its way into the top half of the league.

Offense

How the Aggies beat you: O-coordinator Gregg Brandon left for Colorado School of Mines, so head coach Doug Martin assumes playcalling duties. A penchant for quick sideline passes often blew open the middle for sophomore RB Larry Rose III, the Aggies’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2011. With four starters back on the O-line, Martin will continue the hurry-up and put Rose in position to make plays.

How you beat the Aggies: While junior QB Tyler Rogers will be better-equipped for the spread, he threw at least two picks in nine games and had a total of 23 INTs, versus 19 TDs. In third-down situations, Rogers’ completion percentage was a middling 58.8—only 55.2 percent of his total completions resulted in a first down or TD.

Defense

How the Aggies beat you: Ten starters are back, including six of the top seven tacklers on a D that was No. 2 in the Sun Belt with 21 turnovers. NMSU will keep its bend-don’t-break philosophy that allows its back seven to ball-hawk (11 picks in ’14). Last year the Aggies led the league in pass yards allowed (174.5) but gave up just 16 pass TDs, tied for the least.

How you beat the Aggies: “We need to stop the run a bit better,” Martin says. That is an understatement: NMSU ranked dead last in

the FBS in run D (309.9 ypg) due largely to an undersized front seven. No projected starter for ’15 weighs more than 247 pounds, and leading LB Rodney Butler is just 212. With six of the top opposing RBs in the league returning, the Aggies could be in for another long year.