LAS CRUCES – There is a still a path for New Mexico State to play in a bowl game this season.
The Aggies would need a waiver either a five-win team or a six-win team with two FCS wins, but either scenario requires a win on Saturday at 8-3 Liberty at 10 am (TV: ESPN+ Radio: 99.5 FM KXPZ).
The schools are playing for the fifth time as independents before both join Conference USA next season.
“They are definitely more athletic than anybody in Conference USA probably right now, but we have something to play for in November,” said Aggies head coach Jerry Kill, whose team is 4-6 on the season. “This is a game that comes down to if we get to keep playing or not, in my opinion.”
Win turnover margin
NM State is -5 in turnover margin against Group of 5 opponents this season and have taken relatively good care of the football in the past five games against the G5 or FCS opponents even though the defense has just nine turnovers on the season.
The Aggies are facing a Liberty defense that has 22 takeaways on the season with 14 interceptions. But Liberty quarterbacks have thrown 14 interceptions on the season and the team has lost nine fumbles.
Against a good Liberty defense, I don’t think the NM State offense will be able to consistently move the football, so they need a short field or two in order to put points on the board.
Take away or limit WR1
When Liberty throws the football, they throw to slot receiver Demario Douglas the majority of the time. Douglas leads Liberty with 66 receptions, 899 yards and six touchdowns. The next receiver has 22 receptions.
Andre Seldon lived up to expectations in the first year at New Mexico State
Liberty passes for 223 yards per game and rushes for 185 yards per game. While the Aggies defensive approach is always to limit the run game first, Douglas will be a priority in passing situations.
I think that starts with putting Liberty in predictable passing situations, but generating some pressure or moving the quarterback will be key.
Nickel corner Andre Seldon has been solid in his first season and it will be interesting to see if Seldon matches up with Douglas man-to-man or if he will have help throughout the game.
Diego Pavia has to have his best game
Pavia will start at quarterback for the third straight game.
When the Aggies have been at their best offensively, Pavia has been a really good game manager. I think that to upset Liberty on the road, Pavia has to force the issue.
Pavia has shown the ability to complete passes down field against UMass, and we know he is a capable runner. I think he’s going to be under pressure on Saturday as Liberty leads the country with nine tackles for loss per game and they sack the quarterback over three times per game.
Pavia is good in the run game and dangerous on the move, but he will have to take care of the football and not turn the ball over as the Liberty pressure in the front seven has contributed to 14 interceptions in the secondary.