Who has the advantage? Breaking down New Mexico-Nevada by position

Oct. 28—Last Saturday, Nevada used a furious defensive effort and an offensive showing that left a little to be desired to knock off San Diego State 6-0. The win snapped the Wolf Pack's 16-game losing streak.

Nobody was complaining, though. Danny Gonzales understands that.

"They needed one point," New Mexico's head coach said with a shrug during a Tuesday press conference.

And per Caesar's Sportsbook, that's how much Nevada is favored over New Mexico when the two teams meet in Reno this weekend — just one point. It's a befitting margin for two teams coming off their own sets of losing streaks, with neither having a clear edge across the board.

A look at how both teams stack up against each other, on a position-by-position basis:



Projected starter: Brendon Lewis, R-Jr.

Backup: A.J. Bianco, R-Fr.

New Mexico

Starter: Dylan Hopkins, R-Sr.

Backup: D.C. Tabscott, R-So. or Devon Dampier, Fr.

Analysis: A former four-star recruit, Lewis transferred from Colorado last December after starting most of 2021 and suffering through a lackluster 2022. His first season in Reno has been more down than up: two touchdowns and six interceptions with just 1,005 yards through the air.

Lewis still has a huge arm. And for better or for worse, he still leads Nevada in rushing yards (351 yards on 84 carries) and can be a force with a short field. But if that ability is there, it just hasn't been as reliable as the Wolf Pack would probably prefer.

Advantage: Lewis oozes with talent but that game-to-game inconsistency is a hard buy. Hopkins' polish paired with an expected smattering of Dampier gives UNM an edge. New Mexico

Offensive line


Projected starters: Isaiah World, R-So. (LT), Zach Welch, R-Sr. (LG), Andrew Madrigal, R-So. (C), Joey Capra, R-Sr. (RG), Frank Poso, Sr. (RT)

Backups: Kai Arneson, R-Jr. (LT), Tyson Ruffins, Fr. (LG), Joey Capra, R-Sr. (C), Jacob Nuñez, R-Jr. (RG), Josiah Timoteo, Fr. or John Bolles, R-Jr. (RT)

New Mexico

Projected starters: JC Davis, Jr. (LT), Isaiah Sillemon, R-So. or Taurrian "Teedo" Stafford, Sr. (LG), CJ James, Jr. (C), Isaiah Sillemon, R-So. or Taurrian "Teedo" Stafford, Sr. (RG), DJ Wingfield, R-Jr. (RT)

Backups: Jer'Marques Bailey, R-Jr. (LT), Reese Steele, Jr. (LG), Taurrian "Teedo" Stafford (C) , Devon Smith, Jr. or Travis Gray, Fr. (RT)

Analysis: The best pass blocking team in the Mountain West, per Pro Football Focus (PFF)?

New Mexico, with a grade of 81.1.

And the worst pass blocking team in the Mountain West, also per PFF?

Nevada, graded at 51.7.

The grades aren't everything. And the offensive line isn't the only position laying out in pass protection. But they do have plenty of merit when it comes to this unit: Nevada's offensive line (20) has allowed twice as many sacks as UNM's (10) and given up 77 pressures to the Lobos' 29.

Advantage: UNM's year-to-year turnaround in the trenches is pronounced — and the Wolf Pack will likely be looking for one of their own soon. New Mexico

Running backs


Projected starter: Sean Dollars, R-Sr.

Backup: Jacques Badolato-Birdsell, R-So.

New Mexico

Projected starter: Jacory Croskey-Merritt, R-Sr.

Backup: Sherod White, Sr.

Analysis: Emphasis on projected. As reported by Chris Murray of Nevada Sports Net (NSN), Dollars was limited in practice this week after suffering a concussion against San Diego State, but remains the Wolf Pack's listed starter.

"When we're sure he's good to go and he passes through our programs — our concussion program on campus — whenever he sees all those different things and they make a true evaluation of where he's at, then we'll get him back out there," Nevada head coach Ken Wilson said via NSN.

If Dollars doesn't play, that's a considerable amount of carries to give out without any clear options. Regular backup Ashton Hayes? Out with a knee injury. Listed backup Badolato-Birdsell? Just 14 career carries. This was a thin running back room to begin with and Dollars' absence could set it back in a big way.

And if Dollars does play ... it still feels like a pretty firm advantage for UNM. Croskey-Merritt (545 yards, 11 touchdowns) is a proven quantity. Andrew Henry (112 yards, one touchdown against Hawaii) appears to finally be healthy. White has been reliable out of the backfield. Even if Christian Washington and Zach Vigil don't play a big role on Saturday, the Lobos boast a deeper, more versatile backfield and that should end up paying dividends.

Advantage: UNM's group of proven (and even unproven) backs give them a clear, overwhelming edge. New Mexico.

Wide receivers


Projected starters: Dalevon Campbell, R-Sr. (X), Jamaal Bell, Sr. (A), Spencer Curtis, R-Sr. (Z)

Backups: John Jackson III, Grad. (X), Isaah Crocker, Grad. (A), Marshaun Brown, Fr. (Z)

New Mexico

Projected starters: D.J. Washington, Sr. (X), Jeremiah Hixon, R-Sr. (A), Caleb Medford, So. (Z)

Backups: Duece Jones, R-Jr. (X), Ryan Davis, R-Sr. (A), Andrew Erickson, R-Sr. (Z)

Analysis: Bell is Nevada's primary receiving threat, pacing the Wolf Pack with a team-best 27 receptions for 250 yards. Campbell, however, is right behind him with 13 receptions for 249 yards in a wide receiver room that's still working with an inconsistent passing attack.

Advantage: Nevada has some rock solid receiving options in an imperfect offense. But UNM's deeper group of pass catchers earns them the nod. New Mexico

Tight ends


Projected starters: Jayden O'Rourke, Fr. (82) or Cameron Zeidler, R-Fr. (85)

New Mexico

Projected starters: Trace Bruckler, R-So. (Y), Wyatt McClour, So. (U)

Backups: Everett Hunter, So. or Magnus Geers, Jr. (Y), Caleb Marra, R-Jr. (U)

Analysis: A healthy Keleki Latu (14 receptions, 179 receiving yards) would've tipped the scale well in favor of Nevada, even if UNM hasn't regularly used tight ends as receiving options. But after suffering an ankle injury against UNLV, Latu won't be available this weekend — which leaves a group of seven tight ends combining for 62 yards and eight receptions on the year.

Advantage: Both sides are pretty unseasoned. But Bruckler can and should be the best tight end to take the field for either team on Saturday and that's just enough for an edge here. New Mexico



Projected starters: Tongiaki Mateialona, Sr. (Will), Drue Watts, R-So. (Mike)

Backups: Jackson LaDuke, R-Jr. (Will), Davion Blackwell, R-Jr. (Mike)

New Mexico

Projected starters: Dimitri Johnson, Jr. (LLB), Alec Marenco, Jr. (MLB), Syaire Riley, Sr. (RLB)

Backups: Tate Zimmerman, So. (LLB), Milhalis Santorineos, So. (MLB), Ja'Shon Lowery, R-So. (RLB)

Analysis: The depth chart doesn't paint a very accurate picture. For starters, freshman Jayden Wilson is set to fill in for Santorineos while he sits the first half due to a targeting penalty last Saturday. And startersMarenco and Riley were limited in practice this week, with Gonzales indicating Riley would be a gametime decision.

Similar to Nevada's situation at running back — if Riley's healthy, UNM gets a lift. If Marenco and Riley somehow aren't, that's a huge, huge hit. Meanwhile, Nevada has some key guys in the middle — particularly Mateilona, who earned some due praise from Gonzales this week.

Advantage: This has been one of New Mexico's deepest positions but that depth will likely be tested this Saturday. Nevada

Defensive line


Projected starters: Marcel Walker-Burgess, Jr. (Rush), Dwight Togiola, R-So. (DT), James Hansen, R-Sr. (NT), Thomas Witte, R-Jr. (66) OR Jonathan Maldonado, R-Fr. (DE)

Backups: Eli'jah Winston, Grad. (Rush), Sosefo Moeaki, Jr. (DT), Dion Washington, R-So. (NT)

New Mexico

Projected starters: Gabriel Lopez, R-Jr. (LE), Tyler Kiehne, R-So. (NT), Kyler Drake, R-Jr. (RE)

Backups: Hunter Rapolla, Jr. (LE), Tavien Ford, Jr. (NT), Destin Gainer, R-Jr. (RE)

Analysis: Respective wins against Hawaii and San Diego State were steps in the right direction for both teams' defensive lines. But per Pro Football Focus, these aren't just the worst two pass rushing attacks in the Mountain West — they're the worst two in the country, with UNM (59.1) clearing Nevada (56.2) at the bottom of the pile.

On the ground, the Wolf Pack are giving up 5.45 yards per carry. UNM doesn't have much of a counter: Take out games against FCS Tennessee Tech and Hawaii (a team that barely ran it, even when the Lobos gave them the green light to do so) and UNM's giving up 6.02 yards per carry to opposing backs — a shade ahead of UMass' FBS-worst 6.04.

Advantage: This isn't quite a strength for either team at the moment. Draw



Projected starters: Caine Savage, Sr. (Nickel), Jaden Dedman, Grad. (CB), Aedan Seiuli, R-So. (BS), Richard Toney Jr., R-So. (FS), K.K. Meier, R-Fr. (CB)

Backups: Tre Weed, Grad. (Nickel), Tre Weed, Grad. (CB), Emany Johnson, Grad. (BS), Ezekiel Robbins, Sr. (FS), Michael Coats Jr., Sr. (CB)

New Mexico

Projected starters: Zach Morris, So. (LCB), Christian Ellis, So. (LWolf), Tavian Combs, R-Jr. (Lobo), Jermarius Lewis, So. (RWolf), Donte Martin, R-Sr. (RCB)

Backups: Marvin Covington, R-So. (LCB), Aaron Smith, Jr. (LWolf), Dereck Moore, Fr. OR David Murphy, R-Fr. (Lobo), Noa Pola-Gates, Sr. (RWolf), Bryson Taylor, So. (RCB)

Analysis: Has UNM's secondary turned a corner? Safeties coach Dave Howes paused and took a breath.

"Well, it feels like we stayed the course," he said on Thursday. "It feels like we've gotten better day in and day out. And that starts with practice and preparation — practicing the right way."

Against Hawaii, a youth movement in the secondary helped key UNM to one of its best defensive performances of the year as Morris and safety Lewis pulled down one and two interceptions, respectively. And with Combs (ankle, knee) a gametime decision, they'll have to lean on that group once again against Nevada.

Advantage: Another step forward against Nevada would be highly encouraging for a UNM secondary that's struggled to this point. But for now, the edge has to go to a slightly more experienced and consistent Wolf Pack secondary. Nevada

Nevada (1-6, 1-2) depth chart


LT Isaiah World, R-So. (70)

Kai Arneson, R-Jr. (64)

LG Zach Welch, R-Sr. (56)

Tyson Ruffins, Fr. (52)

C Andrew Madrigal, R-So. (78)

Joey Capra, R-Sr. (55)

RG Joey Capra, R-Sr. (55)

Jacob Nunez, R-Jr. (68)

RT Frank Poso, Sr. (62)

Josiah Timoteo, Fr. (71) OR John Bolles, R-Jr. (77)

WR-X Dalevon Campbell, R-Sr. (5)

John Jackson III, Grad. (14)

WR-A Jamaal Bell, Sr. (3)

Isaah Crocker, Grad. (1)

TE-Y Jayden O'Rourke, Fr. (82) OR Cameron Zeidler, R-Fr. (85)

WR-Z Spencer Curtis, R-Sr. (18)

Marshaun Brown, Fr. (9)

RB Sean Dollars, R-Sr. (4)

Jacques Badoloato-Birdsell, R-So. (23)

QB Brendon Lewis, R-Jr. (2)

A.J. Bianco, R-Fr. (10)


RUSH Marcel Walker-Burgess, Jr. (11)

Eli'jah Winston, Grad. (4)

DT Dwight Togiola, R-So. (52)

Sosefo Moeaki, Jr. (54)

NT James Hansen, R-Sr. (91)

Dion Washington, R-So. (92)

DE Thomas Witte, R-Jr. (66) OR Jonathan Maldonado, R-Fr. (95)

WILL LB Tongiaki Mateialona, Sr. (36)

Jackson LaDuke, R-Jr. (42)

MIKE LB Drue Watts, R-So. (32)

Davion Blackwell, R-Jr. (9)

NICKEL Caine Savage, Sr. (1)

Tre Weed, Grad. (8)

CB Jaden Dedman, Grad. (6)

Tre Weed, Grad. (8)

BS Aedan Seiuli, R-So. (46)

Emany Johnson, Grad. (5)

FS Richard Toney Jr., R-So. (23)

Ezekiel Robbins, Sr. (13)

CB K.K. Meier, R-Fr. (10)

Michael Coats Jr., Sr. (3)


P Matt Freem, Grad. (48)

K Brandon Talton, Grad. (43)

New Mexico (3-4, 1-2) Depth Chart


WR-X D.J. Washington, Sr. (0)

Duece Jones, R-Jr. (14)

LT JC Davis, Jr. (75)

Jer'Marques Bailey, R-Jr. (77)

LG Isaiah Sillemon, R-So. (70) OR Taurrian "Teedo" Stafford, Sr. (66)

Reese Steele, Jr. (72)

C CJ James, Jr. (51)

Taurrian "Teedo" Stafford, Sr. (66)

RG Isaiah Sillemon, R-So. (70) OR Taurrian "Teedo" Stafford, Sr. (66)

RT DJ Wingfield, R-Jr. (73)

Devon Smith, Jr. (65) OR Travis Gray, Fr. (71)

TE-Y Trace Bruckler, R-So. (85)

Everett Hunter, So. (83) OR Magnus Geers, Jr. (17)

TE-U Wyatt McClour, So. (84)

Caleb Marra, R-Jr. (47)

WR-A Jeremiah Hixon, R-Sr. (8)

Ryan Davis, R-Sr. (6)

Kaydin Pope, Fr. (18)

WR-Z Caleb Medford, So. (4)

Andrew Erickson, R-Sr. (11)

QB Dylan Hopkins, R-Sr. (10)

D.C. Tabscott, R-So. (7) OR Devon Dampier, Fr. (13)

RB Jacory Croskey-Merritt, Sr. (5)

Sherod White, Sr. (9)

Christian Washington, So. (22) OR Andrew Henry, R-Sr. (2) OR Zach Vigil, So. (23)


LE Gabriel Lopez, R-Jr. (99)

Hunter Rapolla, Jr. (97)

NT Tyler Kiehne, R-So. (90)

Tavien Ford, Jr. (66)

RE Kyler Drake, R-Jr. (45)

Destin Gainer, R-Jr. (93)

LLB Dimitri Johnson, Jr. (16)

Tate Zimmerman, So. (26)

Jayden Wilson, Fr. (24)

MLB Alec Marenco, Jr. (18)

Mihalis Santorineos, So. (21)

RLB Syaire Riley, Sr. (36)

Ja'Shon Lowery, R-So. (50)

Mihalis Santorineos, So. (21)

LCB Zach Morris, So. (2)

Marvin Covington, R-So. (6)

Hunter Sellers, R-So. (20)

LWOLF Christian Ellis, So. (22)

Aaron Smith, Jr. (12)

LOBO Tavian Combs, R-Jr. (7)

Dereck Moore, Fr. (11) OR David Murphy, R-Fr. (38)

RWOLF Jermarius Lewis, So. (5)

Noa Pola-Gates, Sr. (9)

RCB Donte Martin, R-Sr. (8)

Bryson Taylor, So. (13)

Josh Williamson, R-So. (17)


P Aaron Rodriguez, R-Sr. (10)

Charles Steinkamp, R-So. (27)

K Luke Drzewiecki, So. (94)

Charles Steinkamp, R-So. (27)