The New Mexico State 2013 football schedule is unique: An independent docket, chock-full with challenging competition, and a home lineup that features two BCS-level teams (Minnesota and Boston College) a high-quality Mountain West program (San Diego State) and, of course, an annual rivalry game (UTEP). For the fan, an attractive slate of home games.
It will be far from easy. With that, a lot will be determined by how much improvement NMSU can make from a season ago, and perhaps the Aggies can be competitive in more games and win a handful as well.
A look at the 2013 schedule, and how NMSU will stack up with its competition:
Date: Aug. 31
Game: at Texas
Breakdown: Not much to say regarding this one. The Aggies travel to Austin to take on the Longhorns, a powerhouse program from the Big 12 conference. Texas went 9-4 last year, beating Oregon State 31-27 in the Alamo Bowl. One of two big-money games the Aggies will play during 2013.
Date: Sept. 7
Game: vs. Minnesota
Breakdown: The Aggies captured one of their biggest wins in recent history against Minnesota — a 28-21 victory in Minneapolis during the 2011 season. The Gophers were better last year, finishing with a 6-7 overall record and an appearance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl (where they lost 34-31 to Texas Tech). NMSU Athletics Director McKinley Boston is a Minnesota graduate (he played football at the school from 1964-68) and was Gopher AD from 1991-94. In other words, there’s a connection here as the BCS-level program visits Las Cruces.
Date: Sept. 14
Game: vs. UTEP
Breakdown: Despite dropping their last four games to UTEP, the Aggies could have a chance in this one. The Miners will be breaking in a first-year head coach of their own — that being Sean Kugler — and will make the trip 45 miles north to Las Cruces for the 2013 I-10 rivalry game. A lot of this contest could depend on how Kugler and Aggie head coach Doug Martin put things together early in the season at their respective programs.
Date: Sept. 21
Game: at UCLA
Breakdown: See the Texas game for similar details. The Aggies second big-money game will come in Los Angeles against the improving Bruins. Hailing from the Pacific 12 Conference, UCLA went 9-5 a season ago (6-3 in league play) under first-year head coach Jim Mora Jr.
Date: Sept. 28
Game: vs. San Diego State
Breakdown: The Aztecs are a quality program, and will come to Las Cruces led by former New Mexico head coach Rocky Long. Similar to other Aggie opponents in 2013, San Diego State, of the Mountain West Conference, went to a bowl game last. A tough one for the home team.
Date: Oct. 5
Game: at New Mexico
Breakdown: It won’t be surprising to see the Lobos continue their improvement under second-year head coach Bob Davie. Last year, UNM snapped a three-game losing streak to the Aggies with a 27-14 win in Las Cruces. This season, in Albuquerque, won’t be an easy affair.
Date: Oct. 19
Game: vs. Rice
Breakdown: Again, a pretty tough one for the Aggies. The Owls were better last season, finishing with a 7-6 overall record (4-4 in Conference USA). Still, with the game at Aggie Memorial Stadium, perhaps NMSU will have a shot.
Date: Oct. 26
Game: vs. Abilene Christian
Breakdown: A Division II program making the transition to the Southland Conference of the FCS, Abilene Christian has some history behind its program, putting out some pretty good teams on the field over the years and moving quite a few players to the NFL. While on paper it looks like an Aggie win, the Wildcats might not be pushovers once they come to town.
Date: Nov. 2
Game: at Louisiana
Breakdown: For those who haven’t paid attention, the Sun Belt has stepped its football game up in recent years, and Louisiana (Lafayette) is one program as an example. The Ragin Cajuns finished 9-4 last year, 6-2 in conference, a year that included a narrow loss to No. 6-ranked Florida and a 43-34 win over East Carolina in the New Orleans Bowl.
Date: Nov. 9
Game: vs. Boston College
Breakdown: Tough game to judge here. Last year Boston College was a real disappointment, a program out of the Atlantic Coast Conference that finished with a 2-10 overall record. Certainly the Eagles talent will be formidable for the Aggies, coming out of a power conference and straight into Las Cruces for this early-November affair.
Date: Nov. 23
Game: at Florida Atlantic
Breakdown: A possible win could be in the offering here. Yes, the game will be played in Boca Raton, but Florida Atlantic is coming off a 3-9 overall season. Surely one the Aggies can shoot for.
Date: Nov. 30
Game: vs. Idaho
Breakdown: Again, a possible win when prognosticating. The Aggies lost at Idaho last year 26-18, but the Vandals were equally as poor, and are in a similar predicament as NMSU: A team that finished the year 1-11, and now faces an independent schedule in 2013. This year’s contest takes place in southern New Mexico.