Five things to know about LSU’s Week 4 matchup vs. New Mexico

·4 min read

LSU will face New Mexico for the first time in program history on Saturday.

This isn’t a program that Tiger fans are familiar with. The Lobos have played just 14 games against the SEC. New Mexico isn’t a G5 school often on the minds of fans that don’t follow the Mountain West, and for good reason. UNM has won just four conference games since the end of the 2016 season.

Current head coach Danny Gonzales began his tenure in 2020, and the program has been trending up. Albeit at a slow pace, but it’s progress nonetheless.

Here are five things Tigers fans need to know about the Week 4 matchup against the Lobos.

New Mexico's standing in rating systems

When looking at teams like New Mexico, rating systems can give us an idea about where they are in the grand scheme. It ranks 109th in FPI, with an offense that ranks 120th and a defense that’s all the way up at 12.

In SP+, the Lobos’ offense ranks 130th in FBS and 55th on the defensive side, giving them a 118th ranking overall. In the Sagarin ratings, which also features FCS teams, New Mexico ranks 110th.

This team isn’t one of the worst in the FBS, but it’s outside the top 100.

Players to know

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New Mexico doesn’t have much going for it on the offensive side. Its best player on that side of the ball is center Collin James.

On defense, it’s a different story. Safety Jarrick Reed is one of the best defenders in the Mountain West and the best player on this team. Cornerback Donte Martin and linebacker Reco Hannah are solid contributors as well.

Coaching staff

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New Mexico is led by Danny Gonzales, who was hired by New Mexico AD Danny Nunez. If Nunez’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he spent 14 years working in LSU’s athletic department.

Prior to taking the job at New Mexico, Gonzales was the defensive coordinator at Arizona State for a couple of years. His time in Tempe overlapped with [autotag]Jayden Daniels[/autotag]. The 2019 season, Gonzales’ final year with the Sun Devils, was Daniels’ first.

Gonzales is part of the Rocky Long tree and was a longtime defensive coordinator under Long at San Diego State. Long is now on New Mexico’s staff, working as Gonzales’ defensive coordinator.

This brings us to our next bullet: the defense.

Lobos reliant on defense

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This will be the second week in a row that LSU has faced a Rocky Long defense. Zach Arnett, Mississippi State’s DC, also comes from that tree.

We’ve discussed the drastic difference in ratings between the Lobos’ offense and defense as well as the solid players New Mexico has on this side of the ball, but let’s take a closer look.

New Mexico has excelled on third down, with opponents converting just 23% of attempts. That puts New Mexico 13th in the nation.

New Mexico ranks 11th in opponent completion percentage. Opposing quarterbacks are completing less than 50% of passes against the Lobos’ defense.

New Mexico does a fine job at preventing big plays, too. The Lobos rank eighth in 10-yard play rate and 24th in 20-yard play rate. Long’s group has forced 10 turnovers this year, which is tied for second in the country.

LSU will have a massive talent advantage, which should be more than enough, but this should still serve as a nice warm-up before getting into the meat of conference play.

Brian Kelly faced New Mexico in 2019

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In 2019, the Lobos took a trip to South Bend to face Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame. Things didn’t shake out to well for New Mexico, who lost 66-14.

2019 was Bob Davie’s final year with the program before Gonzales took over. New Mexico is better now than it was then.

Story originally appeared on LSU Tigers Wire