I have the Aggies winning four games this season, but I also think they will start the season 0-5 or 1-4 due to a tough schedule early in the season, so we’ll see what kind of mental toughness this team has as I think they have has some winnable games later in the year if the Aggies can keep it together.
They play the two worst teams in the Mountain West and the worst team in Conference USA, all at home. They open the season against a rebuilding Nevada team with a new coaching staff and have UNM at home for the first time since 2018, as well as another home game against Hawaii, which is also bringing in a new coaching staff.
New Mexico State schedule breakdown: 2022 six least won games
No. 6 vs. Nevada, Aug. 27, TBD
The Aggies opened as 12.5-point underdogs for their first game of the season, which should draw a good crowd at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Of the four Mountain West teams the Aggies played last year, Nevada was the only team that clearly dominated the Aggies from start to finish.
Nevada beat NM State 55-28 with quarterback Carson Strong passing for 377 yards with six touchdowns.
Strong and Nevada’s top seven receivers are gone as Nevada returns just six starters as Ken Wilson takes over as head coach. Nevada was picked fourth in the Mountain West Division.
Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth should fill in for Strong. Illingworth passed for 385 yards last year at Oklahoma State.
Nevada returns its top two running backs from last season with Toa Taua running backs rushing for 732 yards and six touchdowns last season, and offensive lineman Aaron Frost was Nevada’s only preseason All Conference selection. Nevada added receivers from Arizona and Oregon, but Taua is the team’s leading returning receiver with 296 yards last season.
Defensively, Nevada lost its top four tacklers, but they have a good defensive lineman in senior nose guard Dom Peterson and safety JoJuan Claiborne is the team’s leading tackler and Nevada adds Michigan defensive end transfer Darion Green-Warren.
This game should be a competitive start for both teams, adjusting to new coaching staff with new players all over the pitch.
No. 5 vs. Hawaii, Sept. 24, 6 p.m
Hawaii beat New Mexico State, twice, last season. This year’s game comes at a potentially crucial time for the Aggies, who could enter the game with or without a win, entering the game at home but coming off a three-game road streak, with two of those games coming against the Big 10 teams Minnesota and No. 18 Wisconsin. Will the Aggies be healthy? They will continue together as the schedule gets considerably easier with Hawaii as the first of four straight home games.
But just like Nevada, Hawaii has a new coach, their quarterback is now at San Jose State, and they’re looking for new contributors at the skill positions.
Hawaii was picked last in the Mountain West West division after going 6-7 last year. Hawaii hired legendary quarterback Timmy Chang as their head coach, so I think it’s safe to say that Hawaii will continue to look to throw the ball.
Hawaii has six starters returning with four on offense. Three of their returning starters are offensive linemen, which is a good start with Washington State transfer Cammon Cooper or sophomore Trayden Schager at quarterback. Running back Dedrick Parson rushed for 618 yards with eight touchdowns last year, but Hawaii also lacks experience at receiver after losing its top four receivers.
Hawaii had an average team offense last year, but was the worst defense in the Mountain West, allowing 446 yards per game with opponents passing for 290 yards per game. Hawaii added transfers from Power 5 schools to all three levels of its defense with just two starters, so NM State should be able to move the ball against Hawaii.
If the Aggies find a way to beat Hawaii, they could realistically snap a midseason three-game winning streak.
No. 4 vs. University of New Mexico, Oct. 15, 6 p.m
UNM has won the last three rivalry games against the Aggies and this season will be the first time the game has been in Las Cruces since 2018, as the Aggies’ 2020 schedule was canceled. NM State will also be out of a week of open doors.
UNM was picked last in the Mountain West Mountain Division, as the Lobos haven’t been good with Danny Gonzales. They haven’t had a quarterback the past two seasons and this year could be Kansas transfer Miles Kendrick after Kentucky transfer Terry Wilson didn’t work out last year. The Lobos averaged 9 points per game in Mountain West games last year and were last in FBS with 12 points per game and 234 yards per game. The Lobos added running back Sherod White in college.
The Lobos will once again lean on a strong defense with seven starters and six of their top seven leading tacklers back from a team that was fourth in the Mountain West in total defense highlighted by preseason All Mountain West running back Jerrick Reed, who led the team in tackles last year with seven pass breakups and one interception.
No. 3 in Massachusetts, October 29, to be confirmed
When talking about two of the worst teams in FBS football, I have a hard time saying the Aggies are ahead of anyone. But while UMass should be better under first-year coach Don Brown, when the teams played in Las Cruces last year it was clear that NM State is further along as a football program, at least from a talent point of view.
Brown has eight starters returning on each side of the ball, starting with quarterback Brady Olson, who did not play in the Aggies’ 44-27 win over UMass in the final game of the Doug Martin era.
Olson passed for 1,145 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. Leading rusher Ellis Merriweather looked like the team’s best player last year against NM State, where he rushed for 168 yards with two touchdowns. He finished with 1,138 and five touchdowns last year.
Defensively, UMass fell behind NM State in terms of total defense, allowing 485 yards per game. In addition to eight starters on defense, UMass added defensive linemen transfers from Vanderbilt and Florida State and a safety from Penn State.
NM State will have to travel to UMass, but this is by far the Aggies’ best chance to win this season.
No. 2 vs. Florida International, October 1, 6 p.m
FIU was picked last in C-USA after going 1-11 last year and will have to travel from Miami for this game.
Like Nevada, Hawaii and UMass, as well as NM State, FIU has a first-year head coach in Mike MacIntyre. Offensively, FIU has Duke transfer QB Gunnar Holmberg, who will have a 1,000-yard receiver with Tyrese Chambers (1,074 yards, 9 touchdowns).
Defensively, Davon Strickland is a two-time all-conference player at FIU on a defense that allowed more than 500 yards per game against C-USA opponents last year.
No. 1 vs. Lamar, Nov. 12, 2 p.m
Lamar went 2-9 last year and didn’t win a game in a strong WAC football conference.
Lamar is no longer in the WAC, rejoining the Southland Conference, where they are 4-11 in 2019-20. Lamar made the FCS playoffs in 2017 at 6-3 in the Southland, but this season appears to be an outlier at the FCS level.
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