- Time/Date: Saturday, August 26 at 7:00 p.m. ET
- Network: ESPN
- Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium — Las Cruces, NM
- Spread: NMSU -7.0
- Over/under: 45 points
- All-time series: NMSU 2-0
- Last meeting: NMSU win, 23-13 (10/29/2022)
- Current streak: 2 games, NMSU
Jerry Kill’s rebuild of New Mexico State is off to a good start. The Aggies went 7-6 last year, which was Kill’s first at the helm. The season ended with a bowl victory in NMSU’s second trip to the postseason since 2017. Prior to 2017, NMSU had not been to a bowl since the 1960 Sun Bowl.
A huge factor in their push to the postseason was the emergence of Diego Pavia as the team’s starting quarterback. He finished the season with 1,450 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, eight rushing touchdowns and finished second on the team with 508 rushing yards. Pavia was named the MVP of the Aggies’ Quick Lane Bowl victory over Bowling Green.
As the Aggies begin their first season in CUSA and their first season in a conference since since 2017, their hopes to compete once again depend heavily on Pavia.
Defensively, the Aggies’s backfield will be particularly interesting. Myles Rowser joined the team this offseason after earning multiple FCS honors for his time at Campbell. His half brother, Andre Seldon is also expected to make an impact again at corner after a pick six, four pass breakups, 1.5 tackles for loss and a blocked kick in 2022. The middle of the defense is a bit of a question mark after losing most of their leading tacklers from last season.
The stories of each of UMass’ 12 FBS seasons have been fairly similar. Their highest win total in a season since they made the jump has been four. In each of the last four seasons, they haven’t won more than one game. Don Brown began his second stint as the program’s head coach last season and led them to a 1-11 record.
The Minutemen will begin the 2023 season with a new face as their starting quarterback. Taisun Phommachanh, who has previous playing experience at Georgia Tech and Clemson, got the the nod from Brown earlier this week. In three seasons at Clemson, he passed for 204 yards and a touchdown. Last season at Georgia Tech, Phommachanh completed 2-of-6 passes for 13 yards and an interception. Per Brown, his athleticism got him the nod to begin the campaign.
One name that’s been fairly consistent for the Minutemen over the last couple of seasons has been placekicker Cameron Carson. Now a redshirt junior, Carson did not miss a PAT in 2022 and was 13 of 18 on field goals.
Defensively, expect the Minutemen to continue to improve. Their defensive backfield, led by corner Nagurski watch list nominee Jordan Mahoney, allowed a very solid 175 passing yards per game in 2022. Also impressive, they allowed first downs on third down attempts less than a third of the time. If they can find a groove there again, it will make a step in the right direction all the more possible.
To be frank, most things are pointing NMSU’s way in this one. The offense made huge strides last year once Pavia took over as QB1, and the expectation is for that to continue this year. NMSU might not exactly be a conference favorite in CUSA, but they certainly seem more equipped for the season than the Minutemen.
Prediction: NMSU wins 27-13