Wednesday, May 7, 2008

First Look: New Mexico

With spring football in the rearview mirror and the preseason still a few months away, I’m going to throw out some initial observations about Air Force’s 2008 opponents from time to time.

I’m going to go in no particular order and there won’t be a set schedule. I’ll just pass on some thoughts from talking to colleagues and reading stories from other media outlets.

I was a guest on The Mtn.’s Around The Mountain show this week, and one of the teams we discussed was New Mexico. So I’m starting with the Lobos.

NEW MEXICO
2007 Record:
9-4
Off/Def Starters Back: 6/6
Last Year vs. AF: New Mexico 34, Air Force 31
This Year vs. AF: Oct. 23 (Thursday) at Air Force

Roster Report: The Lobos lost a pair of first-team All-Mountain West Conference receivers to graduation – Marcus Smith and Travis Brown. They combined to catch 167 passes for 2,156 yards and 10 touchdowns. But the Lobos, while inexperienced overall, have starters back at key positions. Junior-to-be Donavan Porterie returns at quarterback after passing for 3,006 yards and 15 touchdowns last year; Senior-to-be Rodney Ferguson, coming off back-to-back first-team all-league and 1,000-yard campaigns, returns as running back; And the Lobos have both starting corners back from their 2007 squad.

Fast Fact: New Mexico has won at least six games in each of the last seven seasons and gone to five bowl games in that stretch. But it hasn’t finished better than second in conference play during that time, and last season’s nine victories were its most in one season since Rocky Long took over as head coach before the 1998 campaign.

What Caught My Eye: The Lobos’ schedule. Yikes. New Mexico has arguably the toughest slate of any Mountain West Conference team this season, especially early.

The Lobos are the only team in the conference without a bye week (Air Force had that distinction last season) and the only team other than UNLV that will not play a Division I-AA squad.

(Note: in this blog, I heretofore am refusing to use the term “Football Championship Subdivision” – the new moniker for Division I-AA. Every time I write “Football Championship Subdivision” in the paper I have to write “Football Championship Subdivision – formerly Division I-AA,” because most people don’t know what the heck the “Football Championship Subdivision” is. So consider this my protest to this stupid name change. Back to the Lobos’ schedule.)

The Lobos open with conference heavyweight TCU on Aug. 30, then check out their September: Home games against Texas A&M and Arizona, followed by road games at Tulsa (which went 10-4 and beat BYU last season) and at in-state rival New Mexico State.

Greg Archuleta, the Albuquerque Journal’s excellent New Mexico football beat writer called the Lobos’ nonconference slate “one of the toughest” in Long’s 11 seasons.

Final Thought: New Mexico probably can extend its streak of seasons with at least six wins, but it will be tough, considering the schedule.

Jake's Way Early Line vs. AF: New Mexico -2.5.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Jake. Thanks for the insight. Will you be giving us pre-season looks at all the opponents, or just conference foes?
And, "heretofore?" I gotta say, that's pretty advanced vocabulary for a sports beat writer. Be careful, or you may get snagged for some obscure literary criticism piece in the Gazette. All kidding aside, keep up the good work. Just wondering, Jake--the football players at AF have such unusual summers compared to the rest of the conference,--the rest of college football for that matter. Planning any stories on their adventures abroad? With today's technology, it might even be fun to have some of them blog for you from some of their remote assignments, you know, tell about how they are preparing for the season, and just their overall experiences. Then you could compile the information for an article. I think it would make for interesting reading, even if it was something you decided just to report on in this blog.

jake.schaller said...

Hi,

I'm planning to take a look at all of Air Force's 12 opponents, but we'll see. I'll probably knock out the MWC teams first, then move on from there.

As for the story -- that's a great idea. I'm going to plan to write something on a couple of the guys who are overseas. Last summer I did a story on how Bobby Giannini went about training at Langley AFB in Virginia. I actually went out there and followed him around for a couple days, which was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the Gazette doesn't have the budget to send me abroad, so I'll have to talk to some of the guys over the phone or when they get back. I'm especially interested in Ryan Harrison's adventures in China? What's he going to use for uprights?

But thanks for the idea, it's a good one.

And "heretofore?" I just threw that out there and hoped I used it right.

Anonymous said...

Jake - I'm with ya on the 1-AA vs Championship Division. But, there might be one benefit to using the Championship moniker - shaming the Bowls and 1-A into creating a playoff.

jake.schaller said...

I guess there's that. But I don't think anything is going to get the powers-that-be to change their stance on a potential playoff system. I think we're stuck with the bowl system as is for a long while. If last year couldn't light the playoff fire, not sure anything will.

Speaking of that, check out what SI.com's Stewart Mandel wrote on the subject in his college football mailbag. Mandel argues that it's not money standing in the way of the playoff, it's that the leaders of college football believe a playoff would render the regular season somewhat insignificant. While I think a playoff would be great fun, I can kind of see that.

Anyway, here's the link: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/stewart_mandel/05/06/mailbag/index.html

Ben said...

Jake, is there anywhere online those of us unlucky enough to have Dish Network who missed the Mtn.'s "Around the Mountain" can go to see your interview?

jake.schaller said...

Ben,

I just checked The Mtn's web site (themtn.tv), but I don't think it's there. You didn't miss much as we were talking about New Mexico, Wyoming and UNLV. I think they're going to have me back to talk Air Force in June. I'll keep you posted.

Anonymous said...

Air Force will beat New Mexico. They got lucky last year in a home game.

jake.schaller said...

I don't know if I'd agree with "lucky," but I'd certainly say that the Falcons beat themselves last year. It's tough to win when you make five turnovers inside their own 30-yard line, including two in the final five minutes.

Stats Dr said...

Plus remember about 4 or 5 guys were seriously ill that game. Carson Bird was so sick he didn't even play. Chad Hall was on IV fluids before the game. No one used this as an excuse, but many on the team weren't feeling their best. That's one game I think they would like to have played again.

jake.schaller said...

Stats, you're right. I totally spaced the illnesses, which kept all-league corner Bird on the bench and slowed several other guys. Maybe New Mexico did get lucky.

Still, AF lost that game with mistakes -- which was uncharacteristic of that team.

Isn't it great, by the way, to be talking about football again already? I love it.