The big deal about this Saturday's game against Air Force and San Diego State is that the two offense are polar opposites. The Falcons run an old-school triple option attack that is highly effective, while the Aztecs sling the ball around the field with three to five wide receiver sets.
Aztec defensive coordinator and form New Mexico head coach, Rocky Long posted a 5-6 record as a head coach against the Falcons, and mentions how much more versatile the Falcon offense is:
"They are so much more multiple than they used to be," Long said. "They'll do it out of shotgun, under center, I-formation, triple-I, two wings.
"You can line up a certain way that makes the numbers equal with the offense, but you are going to have to execute as well. There are still going to be a lot of open-field and one-on-one tackle opportunities. It's one thing to pursue, but you are going to have to tackle."
The first key matchup in this game is the Air Force offensive line against the Aztec defensive line and linebackers. The Aztecs are third in the Mountain West in rushing yards allowed, however last week against BYU they gave up a season high 271 yards which was over double of their previous high. Prior to that game BYU was averaging only 119 yards on the ground. The Aztecs will need to play disciplined football and play their assignments to be avoid from getting burned on big runs.
The next key matchup is two fold: first the Aztec passing attack against the Falcon secondary, and the second being wide receiver Vincent Brown against defensive back Reggie Rembert. Both players are all-conference players, and should be an exciting matchup to watch:
Rembert: "He has great hands, speed, he runs great routes, he'll go up and get some balls. He's just a playmaker. He's just a great receiver. You've got to have confidence, that's the main thing."
Brown: "He's very, very talented at his position. He brings a lot of intelligence. He's well coached. He understands his position. The challenge that comes up from him is he knows how to read an offense. When we're running routes, he knows how to man up on you."
On the season Rembert has two interceptions and one recovered fumble. While Brown leads the Mountain West in receptions (26), yards per game (86.6). second in touchdowns (3), and fifth in yards per catch (16.65).
San Diego State has another very good receiver in DeMarco Sampson who is more of a deep threat then Brown, but the two receivers are one and two in the Mountain West for yards on the season. Air Force has a second playmaker as well in the secondary with Anthony Wright Jr. who is an all-conference safety.
One other key to the game is time of possession. If Air Force runs their offense smoothly they will control the clock, but that may not ultimately hurt the Aztec. In San Diego State's loss last week they held the ball for only 14:59 of the 60 minutes and still came up only three points short of winning that game.
Those are the three key matchups in Saturday's game, but the difference will ultimately come down to which team's defense can slow down or stop the other teams offense.