FACTS & STATS: Site: University Stadium (39,224) -- Albuquerque, New Mexico. Television: CSN-CA. Home Record: FSU 4-0, UNM 2-1. Away Record: FSU 1-3, UNM 2-3. Neutral Record: FSU 0-0, UNM 0-0. Conference Record: FSU 3-1, UNM 1-2. Series Record: Fresno State leads, 8-4.
GAME NOTES: Having already surpassed their entire win total from last season, the Fresno State Bulldogs now set their sights on earning the requisite number of victories in order to become bowl eligible as they take on the New Mexico Lobos in Mountain West Conference action this weekend.
In 2011, the Bulldogs won a total of just four games in the final season under head coach Pat Hill. A change at the top of the coaching staff brought in Tim DeRuyter and he's managed to guide this group to five wins in eight tries, not to mention a 3-1 mark in the MWC. Last weekend, the Bulldogs throttled the Wyoming Cowboys at home, 42-14, the team's third win in the last four outings.
Meanwhile, the Lobos have also taken some huge steps in the right direction with their new head coach, Bob Davie. In each of the three previous seasons, New Mexico had won a grand total of just one game and already the 2012 version has four victories in eight opportunities so the change in coaching has paid huge dividends in Albuquerque.
New Mexico was gunning for a rare three-game win streak last week when it clashed with Air Force, but it simply wasn't meant to be as the Falcons took down the Lobos in a 28-23 final which means UNM is now 1-2 in conference play as well.
Fresno State owns an 8-4 edge in the all-time series, but the teams have not met since 1998 when the Bulldogs put up a 28-20 win over UNM.
The Bulldogs put all the pieces together last week as they crushed Wyoming at home, with quarterback Derek Carr converting 32-of-48 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Davante Adams recorded a game-high 11 receptions for 86 yards and one score which helped to overcome the fact that running back Robbie Rouse was limited to just 91 yards on 20 attempts. For anyone else that might sound like a fulfilling night, but four FSU's all-time leading rusher it was one of his weakest efforts of the campaign.
Rouse, who started 2012 with four straight 100-yard efforts, has now failed to reach that mark in three of the last four games and he has been held out of the end zone in each of the last three contests which is rather unusual given that he has eight TDs in the first five games of the season.
Carr, who will always be playing in the shadow of older brother David, now has 22 passing touchdowns on the season and just four interceptions. The gunslinger has certainly shown more poise in the pocket this year and needs just four more TDs to match his career high which he set in 2011.
Defensively, there are few teams in the country that can match what the Bulldogs have accomplished thus far, setting a new MWC season mark with five interception returns for touchdowns. Fresno State ranks second in the country with 15 interceptions and much of the credit goes to Phillip Thomas who not only leads the nation with seven picks, he has also returned three of those for scores, one of them coming last week against the Cowboys.
Unfortunately for Thomas and the rest of his defensive teammates, trying to come up with an interception this week will be extremely difficult given how little the Lobos pass the ball. B.R. Holbrook and the rest of the Lobos have attempted a total of just 95 passes over eight games and their average of 55.9 ypg through the air is by far the fewest in college football.
Instead of putting the ball in the air, the Lobos have redirected their energies towards pounding away, time after time, in the trenches and hoping someone can break through for big gains, which is exactly what happened last week for Kasey Carrier even though the team still lost to Air Force.
Carrier was handed the ball 39 times and he responded by setting a school and Mountain West record with a staggering 338 yards, leading to three touchdowns which also tied him for the league high for the week. Now second in the league and second in the nation in rushing, Carrier is averaging 138.3 ypg as the Lobos place fifth in the country with 296.9 ypg on the ground.
However, the problem with running the ball so much is that the passing attack has become no threat whatsoever and a good defense will make the Lobos pay for such a deficiency.
The other knock on the Lobos right now is that they have trouble defending the pass, to the point where they are 106th in the country with a pass efficiency defense ranking of 147.22. As soon as Carr gets a look at that he and the Bulldogs will be well on their way to planning another dominant performance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 41, New Mexico 24Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 27, 3:30 p.m. (et).