By Mike McCall
Well folks, we’re about 24 hours away from kickoff in Albuquerque, N.M., where Southern will take on New Mexico in a 4 p.m. (central) start. To get you ready for the game, here’s a roundup of some of the key storylines (click the links for more info):
- The game will be a first look at Dray Joseph since he won the starting quarterback job over J.P. Douglas. Joseph got here by limiting mistakes during the preseason, so the Jags will look for more of the same from him against the Lobos.
- Two other key positions to watch on the SU offense: running back and right tackle. Third-stringer Darrius Coleman will start at running back after injuries to Sylvester Nzekwe and Jerry Joseph, and Anthony Mosley gets the nod at right tackle after Taylon Jones went down. Mosley landed his job after switching from defense to offense last week, but he played on offense in high school and has the kind of strength that coach Stump Mitchell is looking for.
- On special teams, keep an eye on freshman kicker Greg Pittman, who (somewhat surprisingly) beat out Matthew Hill for the starting job. Pittman has a strong leg but struggled at times with consistency, and Mitchell will be looking at the early part of the season as a chance to work out the kinks.
- For the defense, aside from watching everything, it’ll be especially interesting to see the defensive line rotation (particularly newcomer Benay Pryer), how a group of fresh-faced linebackers fare, and what kind of job Johnathan Mack does at the No. 2 corner spot. The team will expect strong, strong performances from DT Casey Narcisse, CB Virgil Williams and SS Levi Jackson, the leaders of the defense.
- Conditioning: The Jaguars are really proud of the work they put in this summer with strength coach Corliss Fingers, and here comes the first test. Facing an FBS team (at elevation, no less), will they hold strong through four quarters or falter like they did too often last year?
- New Mexico has been just plan bad in the last few years (3-33 from 2009-11), but new coach Bob Davie has got Lobos fans hoping for brighter days ahead. That first-year coaching staff means UNM is tough to prepare for, so Southern will be going into this one without much prior knowledge. Two things they can count on from the opposing offense: an option-style attack to match the one run by offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse at Sam Houston State last year, and a lot of touches for wideout Lamaar Thomas, a speedster who began his career at Ohio State.
- Beyond UNM’s makeup, it’s also hard to know what to expect from any FBS/FCS matchup. For Southern, the important things go beyond the final score. This is about getting some valuable game experience (especially after a weather-hampered fall camp), keeping everyone healthy and coming together as a team. Oh, and the $350,000 check will be nice too.
- Prediction: The lack of practice time, a few major questions and facing an FBS opponent will be too much for the Jaguars, but I expect to see a few promising moments. UNM 31, SU 13.
- Where to listen: If you can’t make the trip, you can catch the play-by-play on 97.7 FM Downtown Radio. I’m told you can listen online (and on your iPhone) through iHeartRadio. I haven’t tried it yet, so I’ll be interested to hear how that works.
That’s all I got folks. Hope everyone is safe after the storm and enjoys the game. Make sure to follow me on Twitter for more updates from Albuquerque.