It's Time. Literally. It's time. It's finally game day. The 2012 season is upon us and we're ready. The Aggies host FCS foe Sacramento State tonight at 6:00 p.m. (MDT). The quest to end the 52 year long bowl drought begins. Although Sacramento State is an FCS opponent, they are not a team to be taken lightly. Yes, the Hornets had just four wins last year but two of those wins are comparable to two of the victories the Aggies had last season. Sac St. defeated Oregon State in Corvallis 29-28 in overtime drawing similarities to the Aggies' 28-21 victory over Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Hornets also defeated FCS perennial power Montana, a victory that we would liken to the Aggies' victory over Fresno State.
The Hornets break in a brand new backfield this year which in some respects is similar to the situation the Aggies find themselves in with Matt Christian and Kenny Turner having moved on. Andrew Manley was last year's unquestioned starter until an ACL injury suffered in the waning moments against UTEP ended his season. He's back and again he is the unquestioned starter for the Aggie offense. The run game should be featured a little bit more this year as Coach Walker has stated publicly many times that he hopes to be able to run downhill, particularly in short yardage situations. We'll be interested to see just how the Aggies fare (and what the play calling will be) the first time the Aggies are faced with a third and one, third and two or third and three. Will they line up and try to gain the first down on the ground or will they choose to go to the air?
We're also very interested to see Andrew Manley in his first live action against an opposing team's defense. Make no mistake, Sacrament State knows Manley is coming off an ACL injury and while there won't be malicious intent to any of their hits, they will no doubt try to hurry, chase, knock down or sack him as often as possible to try to rattle him.
The Hornets play a 4-2-5 defense and there is some good depth for Sacramento State in the defensive backfield with three players in the rotation who are Division I, BCS conference transfers. Ryan McMahon (USC), Dijon Washington (Nebraska) and Christopher Lopes (UConn) should all see playing time to day for the Hornets.
On the Aggie defensive side of the ball we're definitely looking forward to seeing Donte Savage back on the field. After sitting out last season due to academic ineligibility, we've heard all offseason how good Savage has looked and we cannot wait to see him turned loose on opposing quarterbacks.
We are also very interested in seeing the new Aggie secondary. The Aggies' secondary was the strongest position group on the team last year on defense but there is nary a single returning starter from that group last year. We expect Sacramento State to test them early and often (and in particular Jeremy Harris who, let's just say, did not fare well last year when he was in one-on-one coverage).
One question we posed to both Kyle and Teddy on the podcast was this: Do you think the Aggies need to win convincingly tonight (i.e. a blowout, three to four touchdown margin)? On one hand every coach will tell you that it doesn't matter whether you win by one or you win by 100 that a win is a win and that is certainly true. However, at the same time, we'd really like think that in year four, despite graduating a bunch of good players (including some NFL players), that the Aggies should still be head and shoulders better than Sacramento State and given all the talk about whether both New Mexico State and Idaho should drop down to FCS-level football any chance to "flex their FBS muscles" so to speak should be taken. At the very least the Aggies need to quiet the outsiders talk of New Mexico State needing to drop down to FCS football (and by outsiders we're specifically referring to outside media and/or fans from rival teams or even fans from other teams in the FBS ranks) but that's just our opinion. So that being said, we'd really like to see a thorough victory one in which you never feel like Sacramento State is "in the game" from a competitive standpoint (ala last year's UNM game, even though the final margin was closer than the game actually was).
Tonight's kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. (MDT) and can be seen on AggieVision and streaming online via ESPN3. Radio coverage will be available on the Aggie Sports Network and also streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).
Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News blogs his five keys to tonight's game.
Teddy Feinberg also talks about the start of the football season.
Teddy Feinberg also previews tonight's season opener.
Mark Billingsly of the Sacramento Bee previews the 2012 Hornets and offers three keys to their team and a few players to watch.
Mark Billingsly also talks about Sac State's lack of experience.
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