The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 100: New Mexico State
Coach: DeWayne Walker (9-29, entering fifth season)
2011 record: 2-10 (1-6 in Western Athletic Conference, eighth place in WAC )
Look back: The Aggies opened the 2011 season with a 44-24 loss to Ohio, then turned heads with a 28-21 win at Minnesota Sept 9. New Mexico State’s road win was overshadowed a bit when Minnesota officials confirmed head football coach Jerry Kill had a seizure on the sidelines late in the contest.
The Aggies shifted their attention to a home game against a big rival the following week. New Mexico State faltered, suffering a 16-10 home loss to UTEP. New Mexico State then lost 34-24 at San Jose State.
New Mexico State rallied against struggling in-state rival New Mexico, beating the Lobos 42-28 on the road. The Aggies added a 31-24 win over Idaho and seemed poised for one of the more successful seasons in recent history.
Then the Aggies recorded a 45-34 loss at Hawaii, a 48-34 loss to Nevada, a 63-16 loss at powerhouse Georgia. New Mexico State rallied for a 48-45 win against Fresno State, but the team closed out the season with three losses — 42-7 at BYU, 44-0 at Louisiana Tech and 24-21 against Utah State.
New Mexico State relied heavily on running back Kenny Turner and receiver Taveon Rogers, who made big plays in the open field. The team ranked No. 26 nationally in passing offense with 273.08 yards per game and No. 28 in kickoff return yards with 23.4 yards per return.
However, the defense couldn’t support the offense. The Aggies ranked No. 112 out of 120 teams nationally in scoring defense (36.8 points allowed per game) and No. 112 in total defense (462.2 yards allowed per game).
Offensive starters lost/returning: 6/5
Defensive starters lost/returning: 8/3
Key losses: DB Donyae Coleman, RB Kenny Turner, DB Jonte Green, WR/KR Taveon Rogers
Top returnees: OL Davonte Wallace, QB Andrew Manley, LB Bryan Bonilla, RB Robert Clay, WR Austin Franklin
Strengths: The Aggies return starting quarterback Andrew Manley, who has proven he can help distribute the ball to talented athletes on the team. He leads an offense that returns six starters, including 2011 All-Western Athletic Conference second team offensive lineman Davonte Wallace. While the defense did not perform well in 2011 and returns just three true starters, head coach DeWayne Walker has a strong defensive coaching background and should eventually be able to able to help the group improve.
While four wins isn’t exactly a strong performance for a college program, it was a step forward for New Mexico. It has been 51 years since the Aggies have earned a bowl invitation, the longest drought in the country.
Weaknesses: New Mexico State lost its two biggest playmakers, Turner and Rogers. The Aggies will have to find new athletes to help contribute heavily to the offense.
While it’s completely out of the football coaches’ hands, the Aggies find themselves in one of the worst positions of any program in the country. Conference realignment has hammered the WAC. Due to its small media market in Las Cruces, N.M., no conferences have targeted the Aggies for expansion and they have been left behind in the much depleted WAC. The university is still searching for the best possible option to continue its football program that has already been running on a shoestring budget. It’s extremely difficult for such small programs to compete without the television contract revenue generated by conference television agreements. The New Mexico State university president Barbara Couture and athletic director McKinley Boston wrote a joint letter to fans reassuring them the Aggies will play football in 2013 and they are working to find the best possible future conference home for the football program. With so much uncertainty and lack of respect, it has to be tough for the coaches to recruit athletes to help the program moving forward.
Outlook: The Aggies play another schedule and have to fill holes at key positions, so it will be tough for New Mexico State to end its bowl drought.
Aug. 30 Sacramento State
Sept. 8 Ohio
Sept. 15 UTEP
Sept. 22 New Mexico
Sept. 29 Texas San Antonio
Oct. 6 Idaho
Oct. 20 Utah State
Oct. 27 Louisiana Tech
Nov. 3 Auburn
Nov. 10 San Jose State
Nov. 24 BYU
Dec. 1 Texas State