The state of New Mexico heads to Liberty with thoughts of being eligible for the shot-at-bowl

LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – The state of New Mexico has attended just a single bowl game in the past 62 years, and the thought that they would have a chance to do so in 2022 with two games remaining seemed absurd as late as September.

However, the 4-6 Aggies are in a position to repeat what the 2017 roster did and win two final games in Jerry Kill’s first season as head coach to reach Bowl qualifiers.

First, NMSU must confirm a backup opponent for the September 22 postponement in San Jose State. Las Cruces Sun-News reported earlier this week that the Aggies take aim at FCS opponents Valparaiso on December 3 at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

Valparaiso must receive an NCAA waiver to play a 12th game as an FCS team; If they get it, NMSU would have a 12th game of their own.

In this scenario, NMSU’s Saturday showdown with Liberty gets an added boost. For a Dec. 3 game to mean anything for bowl eligibility, the Aggies would need to beat the Flames and go into that final game 5-6.

The task is easier said than done; Liberty is 8-3 this year and was ranked in the top-25 at times during the 2022 season. The Flames will be a Conference USA opponent for the Aggies in 2023, but for now they’re a fellow FBS Independent.

Liberty can boast some impressive wins in 2022. The Flames went on tour, beating Arkansas 9:19 on November 5; they beat BYU 41-14 at home on October 22; and they beat UAB 21-14 on September 10th.

They also have some questionable losses and near-hiccups on the schedule, losing to UConn on Nov. 12 and narrowly escaping FCS foe Gardner Webb, 21-20, on Oct. 15.

NMSU suffered a tough loss in Missouri last Saturday, but before that the Aggies had won three straight games. They are aware of the task ahead, and Kill himself is excited about the opportunity to get picked up for the bowl with two games to go.

“I hope they’re excited, they’re acting like it. I told them it’s a brawl for everything; either you win it or you lose it,” said Kill. “We have an opportunity to do something no one thought they would ever do. We’ll see what happens, but at least we’re doing something in November.”

The Aggies and Flames kick off Saturday at 10 a.m. MT in Virginia. The game can be seen on ESPN+.