Tarleton (0-1) at New Mexico State (0-0): The Matchup, Players to Watch, Keys to Victory, Prediction

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Tarleton (0-1) at New Mexico State (0-0)

When: 4 p.m. Sunday in El Paso

The Matchup: Doug Martin begins his eighth season as New Mexico State coach. Martin led the Aggies to the program’s first bowl win in 57 years in 2017. However, the Aggies have totaled five wins over the last two seasons and New Mexico State has been an athletic department in transition due to CoVID-19.

Tarleton surprised many people last week nearly defeating McNeese in the FCS opening game of the season. The truth is, the Texans could have won that game if not for late-game mistakes. It says a lot about where Tarleton stands in its transition to Division I with the coaching staff and players expecting to have won the game. 

Players to Watch: The Aggies have lost 19 games over the last two seasons and will begin rebuilding with new players at every skill position on offense. The NM State defense will be led by linebacker, and former Klein High School standout Devin Richardson, who led the Aggies in forced fumbles while finishing third in tackles and sacks in 2019.

Freshman Braelon Bridges made a splash in his first action for Tarleton last week, but he was far from the only bright spot. Tariq Bitson dazzled with a spectacular catch in the end zone and led the Texans with 87 yards receiving. Junior linebacker Zech Hopkins had a good game for the defense last week and the Cuero High School product will need to be solid with fellow linebacker Ronnell Wilson out for the first half following a targeting penalty last week.

Key to Victory: Tarleton showed the gap between where they were at Division II and where they begin in FCS is not as large as expected. However, the gap between D-II and FBS is extremely large. The Texans should be able to move the ball but dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball will be difficult this week.

Prediction: New Mexico State by 15

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