2012 Record: 4-9 (1-7 in MWC)
Head Coach: Bob Davie (2nd year at New Mexico, 39-34 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2007 New Mexico Bowl: beat Nevada 23-0
Stadium: University Stadium in Albuquerque, NM (capacity = 38,634)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 43rd out of 55 mid-major teams
Toughest Conference Home Game: 10/19 vs Utah State
Stat to Fear: allowed opponents to score TDs on 72.92% of red zone trips (9th in MWC), allowed opponents to convert on 49.68% of third downs (9th in MWC)
Stats to Cheer: only lost 14 turnovers in 2012 (2nd in MWC), had 20 rushes of 20 yards or more (1st in MWC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 109th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 6, Defense: 4, Special Teams: 2
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Dallas Bollema (89 tackles), DL Jacori Greer (32 tackles, 5 sacks, 8 TFL)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Kasey Carrier (1469 yds rush, 5.7 ypc, 15 TD), G Lamar Bratton, T Darryl Johnson
In year one under Bob Davie, the Lobos turned their offense around increasing their ppg by 13.8. That's a pretty significant increase and the Lobos did it by going run heavy. They increased their run percentage from 53% in 2011 to 81.7% in 2012. The Lobos started 4-3 but then dropped their last six but for the most part they stayed competitive despite a lack of depth in Davie's debut.
On offense, the Lobos are going to be very deliberate and they will try to play keep away. Last year they finished second in the Nation (behind Rice) in time of possession. QB Cole Gautsche got some experience in 2012, especially down the stretch, and it looks like he will take over the reigns for the Lobos this season. He ran for 760 yds in 2012 on a 6.97 ypc with 7 TD. He wasn't quite as good with the pass as he completed just 41% of his throws. An improved passing game would go a long way to keep opposing defenses off balance so they don't focus on Kasey Carrier. Carrier returns for his senior year after finishing in the top 15 in the Nation with 1469 yards rushing. The receiving corps loses their top two targets but they combined for just 28 receptions. The OL returns four starters and three players with 25 or more career starts. According to Phil Steele, this is the second most experienced OL in the conference and fifth in the Nation.
The defense allowed 11.5 less ppg last year than in 2011. They allowed a lot of big plays but their rush defense went from allowing 246 ypg to 174. They also improved within the red zone as they held opponents to a 77% score rate in the red zone (vs 88% last season). There will be some turnover on the defensive line but they do return the best player from that unit in Jacori Greer (5 sacks). The LBs will be the strength of the defense with Dallas Bollema, Rashad Rainey and Javarie Johnson. The secondary must replace it's top three players as only Tim Foley returns. Davie brought in a full class of 25 this season with over half of them coming in on defense (including two JUCOs) and he hopes he can find some contributors that can help out on this side of the football.
The schedule is a tad bit tougher this year with no FCS school scheduled but there are definitely some winnable games here for the Lobos. They have a shot against UTSA, UTEP, UNLV, NMSU, Wyoming, Air Force and Colorado State. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for this team to be bowl eligible but I think it's going to take Davie a bit more time to get this team to that level. I actually see them taking a step back in terms of W-L record this season but I do think they will be competitive and definitely think they can steal some games but they have to play better down the stretch this season.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews: