The Lobos pride themselves on stopping the run first and making teams beat them by throwing the football. Their aggressive defensive style has many a player shooting gaps consistently and furiously in order to stack the defense to stop the run.
So far they've been pretty effective, allowing just more than 100 yards per game on the ground. The Lobos have better size this year up front and are senior-laden, as all three of their starting defensive linemen and two of their linebackers hold a wealth of experience as senior players.
The Cougars have been effective at running the ball against some quality defensive fronts this season. Last week the run game was simply mediocre, and this week may not be the best matchup for Harvey Unga to run wild throughout the game.
Prognosis: There is little doubt in anyone's mind that the chief focus of the Lobos will be to stop the run. Rocky Long likes to take away the run as much as possible and force teams to throw the football, and I don't see that changing this week against BYU. The Lobos will be stacking the box, and the Cougars will have their work cut out for them with the run game.
What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching to see if BYU's offensive line can match the physical nature of the Lobo defensive front in their run blocking and overall play. The Lobos will be attempting to hit the Cougar offensive front in the mouth coming out, and I'll be watching for how well the Cougar offensive line comes out and responds to New Mexico's physical nature.
BYU passing game vs. New Mexico
The Lobo defense can be exploited through the air, as they've given up more than 250 passing yards per game against passing attacks far less potent than BYU's. As always, New Mexico will be attempting to disrupt the timing and rhythm of the Cougar passing attack with a myriad of different blitz packages that the Cougars will have to pick up and even exploit.
Like their defensive front, the Lobos' secondary is very experienced. It features three seniors and two juniors. The Loboback this year is Clint McPeek, who will be looked at to be the primary playmaker this Saturday.
Like the run game last week, the Cougar passing attack had their worst game of the year last week against Utah State. Michael Reed returns this week, which should be a huge boost to the overall passing attack of the Cougars.
Prognosis: The Lobos can be exploited through the air, and fans can expect just that come Saturday. Michael Reed is back as mentioned, which should make Max Hall more comfortable with distributing the ball all over the field.
The Cougars know how to play against the 3-3-5 defense as well as anybody, and fans can expect a lot of positive gains in the Cougar passing game against the Lobos.
What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching the Cougar offensive line to see how well they do in picking up the Lobo blitz packages. Should they do it well and consistently, Max Hall should have a field day against New Mexico's man-heavy defensive coverage system.
BYU run defense vs. the Lobos
Make no mistake about the fact that New Mexico will be attempting to run the football and attempting to run it often. Due to severe deficiencies in their passing attack since Donovan Porterie's injury, look for the Lobos to be pounding away on the ground come Saturday.
Rodney Ferguson is a load and should test the Cougar inside linebackers. While he's still a game-time decision in regards to playing, most - if not everyone - fully expects Ferguson to take the field following an injury that has kept him out here of late.
The Lobos also present a running quarterback who will be testing the Cougar defensive front. Brad Gruner ran the ball for 81 yards on just eight carries a week ago, and will present a challenge for the Cougars. Along with Ferguson, the Lobos have a lot of confidence in backups Paul Baker and James Wright, both of whom have seen success this year. Baker is a low-to-the-ground runner, while Wright is Ferguson-like in that he presents a very physical and bruising-type play.
Prognosis: The Cougars haven't really been tested at defending the run like they'll be on Saturday. Fans can expect a lot of running plays from the Lobos, and the defense will have to buck up and match the physical onslaught the Lobos will attempt to bring on the ground.
What I'll be Watching: The inside linebackers are going to be key in this game. While I'm confident that the Cougar defensive line will do well in creating effective gaps for the linebackers to fill, I want to see how Matt Bauman, Matt Ah You, Shawn Doman and company do in matching the physical play of the Lobos.
BYU pass defense vs. the Lobos
Don't expect the Lobos to be throwing much at all this Saturday. Gruner has thrown for just 55 and 33 yards in his last two starts. Chris Hernandez looks to be Gruner's main target, and he has good size and movement that could cause some problems for the Cougar secondary.
BYU has been relatively consistent in defending the pass here of late. While there still are some question marks, they likely won't be tested much against New Mexico.
Prognosis: Look for the Lobos to be attempting most of their passes out of play action and misdirection. Also look for them to attempt to beat BYU over the top or underneath the coverage, as Gruner has shown no ability to pick apart a coverage scheme.
What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching for how disciplined the Cougars are in their gap assignments and coverage assignments. Like their defense, the Lobo offense will likely be attempting to fool the Cougars with misdirection. Defensive coordinator Jaime Hill prides himself on coaching a very disciplined defense, and the Cougars need to be just that come Saturday.
The Lobos' game plan will be to keep the Cougar offense off the field as much as possible. Fans can expect a heavy dose of running from New Mexico, with a few attempts to beat the Cougar defense down the field.
On offense the Cougars should be raring to go, and Max Hall has all the pieces in place - from players returning from injury to facing the right defensive scheme - to have a big game. As the Lobos will be leaning strongly towards the run, the Cougar offense should be leaning heavily toward the pass in this game, and it's difficult to see how New Mexico will hold BYU to less than 300 yards passing and 35 points.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 42, New Mexico 13