New Mexico State at least knows their immediate future. The 2016 schedule is less than 100 days away and as of June 3rd, the Aggies know all of their 2017 opponents with the addition of Arkansas.
With road games at New Mexico and Arizona State plus a home date with I-10 rival UTEP, the non-conference is set. With the projection that the Aggies won't play Sun Belt newbie Coastal Carolina, you can just flip the home and away Sun Belt foes in 2017.
Beyond 2017, New Mexico State is out of the Sun Belt and heads off into the unknown.
Currently, here's the Aggies' future opponents.
at San Diego State
That's it. Three game in a span where the Aggies will need 48.
The only other recent case study on this is UMass, who in March 2014 was informed/decided that 2015 would be their last in the MAC. That September, the Minutemen secured their future scheduling by adding 19 games in September and have added and added since then. Now UMass' next opening is in 2018 and there's only game left.
However, UMass has several advantages that New Mexico State doesn't. The Minutemen have a rent-free agreement with Gillette Stadium so the school can attract power conference opponents who want to play in Boston, like Vanderbilt, Indiana, Colorado, Boston College and Mississippi State this fall.
The Aggies don't have an NFL stadium, nor a big sports city like Boston, to lure in opponents.
In 2013, the previous independent season for NMSU, the Aggies did bring in Minnesota and Boston College to Las Cruces. There's also the rivalries with New Mexico and UTEP. After that, it's a toss up.
NMSU does have some advantages to woo in programs. When a lot of the country is freezing in late October, November and December, Las Cruces can be a nice reprieve from the cold.
The Aggies also have a basketball program that can be used in creative schedule to get the football program some games. A power conference team could take a home game versus a good RPI team in the Basketball Aggies while getting a home and home, or two home games and a road game with the football team.
The reality of the situation is that New Mexico State will be taking a lot of road money games to fund their program. NMSU could already be an honorary member of the SEC by how much they play each other, but it could become a situation where SEC AD's could just keep a direct deposit line open to Las Cruces.
Another opportunity could be had with the Big 12 bringing back a conference championship game in 2017. The Big 12 hasn't said how they'll schedule, but it does put an eight-game slate back on the table for the league. The Big 12, which currently plays a nine-game true round robin, could scale back a game and have a bunch of non-conference dates open all of a sudden.
On first glance, NMSU seems to be in trouble come 2018 schedule-wise. But with over two years to figure it out, it's not a hopeless situation.
In the end, NMSU will likely play 2-3 SEC teams, 1-2 Pac-12 teams, 2-3 Mountain West teams, 1-2 FCS teams, 1-2 western Sun Belt teams, a Big Ten team and Big 12 team or two if there's room.
Unlike Idaho, the Aggies say there's no sense is going FCS, so that option is off the table. For the time being until something opens up, the independence wave will have to be ridden as long as it can go. Mario Moccia is a solid Athletic Director and he could pull off an FBS Independent schedule, but it won't be easy.