When and where: September 29, 2018, Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, NM, 4:00 PM ET
After knocking off rival New Mexico State, the New Mexico Lobos has their eyes set on a visit from the struggling Liberty Flames. There has been nothing hot about the way the Flames have been playing, coming off back-to-back blowout losses to Army and North Texas. The Lobos, on the other hand, have returned to their winning ways after getting thumped on the road against No.5-ranked Wisconsin.
No hiding Liberty’s atrocious run defense
Opposing offenses have run over, on and around Liberty’s defense for an average of 308 yards per game. It’s a horrifying stat that has more to do with coaching than not having the right personnel to get the job done on the field. Obviously, Liberty doesn’t boast an ultra-talented defense, but they can improve on things such as staying true to their gap assignments and open-field tackling.
It’s never a good thing when teams can simply line up and run the ball down your throat over the course of a 60-minute football game.
North Texas gave running back Loren Easly 27 carries against Liberty’s defense in Week 4, and he turned it into 177 yards and two touchdowns with an average of 6.6 yards per carry. That performance came two weeks after Army piled up 449 total rushing yards on them.
In one game, they had four completely different players rush for 70 or more yards. It was so easy for them to run they pretty much abandoned the passing game with quarterback Kelvin Hopkins only attempting seven passes.
Turnovers are key for New Mexico
New Mexico would win every game they play for the rest of the season if they’re able to come up with five interceptions like they did against New Mexico State.
Those obviously aren’t realistic expectations, but the takeaway is how opportunistic playmaking on the defensive side of the ball can tip the game in their favor. That’s what it’s going to take to beat some of the better teams on their schedule this season.
Freshman safety Marcus Hayes has been one of New Mexico’s few consistent playmakers in the defensive backfield. A week after he had the third-most tackles on the team in the game against Wisconsin, he picked off two interceptions against New Mexico State, including one pick returned for a touchdown.
It was also a big day for running backs Tyrone Owens and Ahmari Davis—both of whom rushed for a combined 184 yards and five touchdowns. Those gaudy numbers are a nice replacement for another disappointing day from quarterback Sheriron Jones, who only threw for 127 yards and one interception.
That performance came a week after he threw two picks to Wisconsin.
- Lobos are 5-1 ATS in last 6 games played in the month of September
- Over is 7-1 in Lobos last 8 games at home at against a team with a losing record on the road
- Over is 5-1 in Lobos last 6 games
- Over is 4-0 in Lobos last 4 games played in the month of September
- Over is 11-4 in Lobos last 15 games played at home
- Over is 4-0 in Lobos last 4 games played outside their conference
- Flames are 1-3 in last four games straight up
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I haven’t seen a run defense as bad as Liberty’s since Spike was running over the “Little Giants.” They have given up a combined 795 rushing yards in their last two games.
Not being able to stop the run puts the team at an extreme disadvantage on both sides of the ball. It wears out the defense by keeping them on the field for long and extended drives, and it also limits the amount of opportunities for the offense, as they are usually losing in time of possession. Army had more than double the time of possession than Liberty in Week 2.
New Mexico will keep the focus on the one-two punch at running back in Owens and Davis, while trying to limit turnovers whenever Jones decides to drop back and pass. On the other side of the ball, the defense should be able to stifle a Liberty offense void of standout playmakers.
Liberty will be able to pound the football on the ground for good yardage, but they’ll ultimately struggle in coming away with touchdowns in the red zone.
Prediction: New Mexico (-7)
Full-Game Total Pick
The under is 7-2 for Liberty in their last nine games on the road and 4-0 in their last four against teams with a winning record. New Mexico should be able to run up the score, but the 64 point line is too much, even against a defense as bad as Liberty’s. I don’t see Liberty doing much on offense to contribute to total line, either.
The under is the most sensible pick in this game.
Prediction: Under (64)