As Omar covered this morning, the Aggies have done a solid job with their upcoming schedules, creating a nice mix of retaining a few Sun Belt connections, re-establishing a handful of WAC/MWC connections, and generally not traveling fifty bajillion miles in the process.
The fact remains though, that the Aggies require an additional two games to complete their 2019 schedule, seven for 2020, and five for 2021. The 2019 schedule is already under a crunch, as well, as the windows of opportunity are quickly closing. So what options remain for NMSU?
Let’s start with the nearest season, since this is already becoming narrowed enough to speculate. The Aggies have 10 games scheduled, and six of them are road games, which means that in a perfect scenario, they would schedule two more contests that would both be at home against FBS teams; barring that, one more of each (home and road) would suffice. So what are the options?
Teams that could welcome Las Cruces to their stadium
Air Force, Georgia State, Houston, Memphis, UCF, FAU, UAB, UTSA, Kent State
I think we can automatically cross Kent State off the list. There is no reason for New Mexico State to add another road game before they absolutely have to unless there is clear benefit in terms of boosting recruiting, rekindling rivalry, or minimizing travel. Kent State does none of that, nor would any road game in Ohio that wasn’t in Columbus. Scratch that.
Only a small step up from that would be Memphis and UAB. Both of those are better than Kent on all fronts, but the best thing you could say for them is “makes more sense than playing at Kent State”, which isn’t saying much. That pains me, as I would love to watch the Aggies in Birmingham, but it’s probably not realistic.
The next cluster of teams (Georga State, Houston, UCF, FAU, UTSA) all move another notch up – again either much better recruiting or less travel or both as compared to the teams below them, but still some complications (mostly travel) that make them less than ideal.
The one road game that would legitimately make a lot of sense would be Air Force. While there’s no real recruiting boost to a trip to Colorado Springs, it’s another chance to add a Mountain West opponent to the schedule, and it’s also the road game option that requires the least amount of travel.
I don’t know how likely it is, but it’s definitely the most desirable if the Aggies wind up having to roll with a seventh road game
Teams that could travel to Las Cruces
FSU, Miami, App State, Coastal, TCU*, FIU*, Army***, UF, South Carolina, Arkansas
This is purely a list of teams that still have room in their 2019 schedule for a non-conference road game. I think we can all agree that the odds of an ACC or SEC team making the trek to Las Cruces is exceptionally low, but we’re just listing all possibilities to begin with.
I have an asterisk by TCU and FIU because they are the teams that have room for a home game or a road game; however, I don’t think a road game at FIU makes sense unless you’ve struck out with FAU or UCF first. TCU could also work as a road game, because you get the recruiting bump of Texas (a la UH or UTSA) but you also get the paycheck as well. Though that would mean road games at Washington State, Alabama and TCU all in one season, which is asking a lot.
App State and Coastal Carolina could make sense as additional former Sun Belt foes on the schedule, but you’re then asking for road trips to your stadium by one of the two SBC teams that is furthest away from you. Not impossible, but there’s a better option.
Army makes a ton of sense, and I have a double asterisk here because I think it make sense to schedule a series with them, a home-and-home with a gaime in Las Cruces for 2019 and one at West Point for 2020. The return game might need to get stretched out, since NMSU is already going to UMass in 2020 and Army’s 2021 schedule is already overbooked (13 games, and none of them is Hawai’i), but there’s nothing wrong with 2022 as long as the parties can agree.
This makes sense; NMSU and Army already have 10 games scheduled for 2019. The Aggies need at least one if not two home games, and the Black Knights of the Hudson need at least one if not two road games. It could be a one-off game, but I think Army would want a return, and there’s no reason for NMSU not to grant that.
So my personal vote for 2019’s schedule completion will be the following:
- Home games against Army and FIU/CCU/App St
- Home against Army, road against Air Force
- Home against Army, road against TCU
2020 and 2021
There’s a good bit more flexibility here, as the Aggies have both of these schedules about half-full and a number of other programs still have plenty of non-conference openings at this point.
One trend to keep an eye on is that NMSU already has seven games scheduled for 2021, and five of them are against Mountain West Conference opponents. In a world where head coach Doug Martin has already been telling his players for a year now about every game being an audition for a new conference, the Aggies are three more such games away from basically playing the schedule of an MWC team.
Air Force, Nevada and UNLV all still have openings for that season, so now a home-and-home (or just a two-game road series) with Air Force makes a bit more sense, and maybe Nevada or UNLV is up for a home-and-home that starts in 2021. The Aggies also haven’t scheduled any money games for either of these seasons, so the landscape is pretty wide open on that front, as well.
We won’t worry about beyond that just yet; it has taken althetic director Mario Moccia a solid year and a half just to get to a point where 2019 is nearly done, so even the remainder of 2020/21 is heavily conjecture, let alone beyond that. Maybe they can get crazy and make buddies with Notre Dame? Maybe they’re in a conference by then? a lot can happen in two years, let alone 4+ years.
There are some clear options for the Aggies to complete their immediate upcoming independent schedules, and some of those options would appear to make a lot more sense than others. I’m clearly not the one doing the deciding, but neither are you.
What do you think the Aggies should do for these remaining slots? Do you agree?