If the New Mexico State Aggies were to play in a football game where on paper they should win, this would be the one.
Or, perhaps more accurately, this has to be the one.
While the term 'must-win game' is an over-used cliche, tonight's contest against Abilene Christian is certainly one the Aggies can't afford to lose.
Not after an 0-7 start to the 2013 season; compounded by an 18-game losing streak (which is tied with Southern Mississippi for the nation's longest); and not against a former Division II program making the transition to the Football Championship Subdivision, on homecoming Saturday.
What would the critics say - those who believe the Aggies would be better served themselves in a lower football division - if the team can't pull out a victory tonight? Clearly they would gather further ammunition, and such barks would grow louder.
But such a storyline is also removed from those voices. The university, still, doesn't seem close to dropping football from it's current level.
In truth, the Aggies just need the win, because they need a win.
This is a team that hasn't tasted victory since last August, in the their 2012 season-opener against Sacramento State. That's a long time to go without such a feeling - for players, for fans, for coaches.
On paper, one would figure the Aggies should be favored by two touchdowns. It's not a knock on Abilene Christian, just a fact: NMSU plays in the Football Bowl Subdivision, while ACU - at the moment - is a low-end Football Championship Subdivision program. While the Aggies have played power teams such as UCLA, Texas, Minnesota, Rice and San Diego State (in most cases, insurmountable opponents this season), Abilene Christian has wins against the likes of Concordia, McMurry, New Mexico Highlands, Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word.
Then again, such a point spread wouldn't factor in the mental component and preparation leading up to such a game. For the Aggies, that would be battling fragile confidence, while Abilene Christian will take the field ready to play, against an FBS team they'll believe they can compete with, or possibly beat.
It's certainly an intriguing angle for what would ordinarily be a game few would recognize. A dogfight wouldn't surprise many.
But is it a must-win game for the home team?
If the Aggies want to snap their current losing streak, than yes. And if they want to avoid a winless 2013 season, than it very well could be as well.
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