The New Mexico State Aggies are going bowling!
For some programs, that statement is issued on an annual basis. But for New Mexico State, there is much deeper meaning behind those eight words.
New Mexico State won the 2022 Quick Lane Bowl, upending Bowling Green in 24-19 fashion to add new hardware to the facilities in Las Cruces, NM. That wasn’t the Aggies’ first-ever bowl win; in fact, it was their fourth. The Aggies also claimed a thrilling overtime Arizona Bowl victory in 2017 that resulted in a rare neutral-site field storm. Prior to that, the program claimed back-to-back Sun Bowl wins in 1959 and 1960. New Mexico State’s only other bowl game transpired in 1935, when tying Hardin-Simmons in the first annual Sun Bowl.
That’s it. That’s New Mexico State’s extensive bowl history. The Aggies are 4-0-1 in the postseason all-time. They were starved of the opportunity from 1961 to 2016, despite claiming nine winning seasons in that 56-year span. That’s what made the 2017 Arizona Bowl appearance so special.
But one thing New Mexico State hadn’t attained in over 60 years was the opportunity to participate in back-to-back bowl games. After defeating Louisiana Tech on the road 27-24 Tuesday, the Aggies increased their win total to six. Now, that opportunity looms on the schedule. For the first time since 1959 and 1960, New Mexico State will see bowl season in consecutive years.
Sometimes, 6-win teams aren’t invited to bowls due to a lack of spots, but with the rising number of postseason contests, a shortage of qualifiers is far more likely than an excess in 2023. New Mexico State is playing 13 games this year — which is common practice for teams playing a road non-conference game at Hawaii — but six should certainly be enough to clinch. Even if the Aggies finished 6-7, they would receive priority over all 5-7 teams and James Madison, which is in the second year of a transition from the FCS level.
The Aggies are led by second-year head coach Jerry Kill, who previously served the same role at Northern Illinois and Minnesota, and Kill has facilitated an impressive turnaround for a long-suffering program. New Mexico State is currently 6-3 and 4-1 in Conference USA play after stringing together four consecutive midweek victories. This is the program’s first year participating in a conference since 2017 as a realignment addition for the CUSA.
Not only are the Aggies competitive in CUSA play — they have a realistic shot of participating in the conference championship game come December. New Mexico State only trails unbeaten Liberty (its lone defeat) in the conference standings, and while the Aggies share a 4-1 conference record with Jacksonville State, the Gamecocks are ineligible to participate in conference title weekend due to rules associated with their transition from the FCS. If New Mexico State can sustain its winning ways, it can be on track for its first conference title since wearing the Missouri Valley Conference crown to conclude the 1978 season.
New Mexico State fans do not take bowl eligibility for granted, considering the postseason-less football they endured for nearly 60 consecutive seasons. Now, bowl eligibility is becoming a staple for the Aggies, which have become much more accustomed to raking up wins in recent history.