New Mexico State University
Sophomore QB Gavin Frakes will be returning to play in the 2023 season (Dan Sanger/New Mexico State Athletics).

New Mexico St Preview: Can Aggies be 2023 C-USA Contenders?

New Mexico State University's football team has been on the struggle bus for many years, but the Aggies have recently gotten out and on the bowl roll. The name of the game for the Aggies in 2023 can be defined by a few key words: Strong leadership, strong players, and unlimited potential. Fans have a lot to be excited about. Feeling Aggie for more New Mexico State news? Visit

NM State 2023 Preview

The conference: Conference USA

2022 record: 7-6

Conference finish: new to the C-USA, 7-6 record, 4th place in the FBS conference last year

Head coach: Jerry Kill is going into his second season as HC in New Mexico. He has an overall record of 165-110 at the collegiate level, with plenty of head coaching experience at the Big Ten's Minnesota, as well as Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois under his D-I belt.

Five all-star candidates: Zack Haynes, Punter from Southeast Missouri (41.5 AVG/Punt, career-long 76-yard punt); Keyshaun Elliot, Linebacker (27 TKL, 0.5 TFL); Star Thomas, Running Back (520 NET, 4.8 YPR); Kordell David, Wide Receiver (343 YDS, 14.3 AVG); Diego Pavia, Quarterback (Passing: 1450 YDS, 13 TD, QBR 133.5; Rushing: 508 NET, 5.5 YPR).

The newcomer: Dion "Tank" Williams Jr., DT, transferred from the University of Arizona (31 tackles, including 11 solo, and 1 sack in three seasons).

New Mexico State

Arizona transfer Dion "Tank" Wilson Jr. is not the guy you want to look up and see on the opposite side of the ball when you play New Mexico State (Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics).

The Breakdown

The 2023 season is an exciting, transitional year for NMSU. It may be in for a rebuilding year. Only 13 starters returned, with many key pieces lost. However, the Aggies pulled in some talented transfers in the offseason, and the potential is there.

Kill is a coach who traditionally makes lemonade out of lemons like it's his primary vocation. He brought a team to a bowl in his first year as head coach at Northern Illinois. NMSU's last bowl appearances prior to the 2022 season were in 2017 and 1960. With an ability to create magic like that, there's no telling where Kill can lead things this time. Nothing is truly out of the realm of possibility.

The Key Game

New Mexico State's biggest in-state rivalry is with the University of New Mexico. NMSU fans as always will enjoy the Sept. 16 game, with a high likelihood of winning in this author's opinion.

The Toughest Games

The Aggies will face their toughest opponents at the end of their schedule.

Louisiana Tech is seemingly a thorn in New Mexico State's side. The Aggies fall to the Bulldogs often. Will the Aggies defeat La. Tech on Oct. 24?

SEC teams are the thorn in the Aggies other side, though they are not alone. NMSU can't seem to beat SEC teams. Auburn has the win in 2023 on Nov. 18.

The Chances of Reaching the C-USA Title Game

It is highly unlikely NMSU makes it to the C-USA title game. Anything is possible with the Aggies, however, more so than many C-USA hopefuls. A bowl is way more likely and will be a reality if Kill has anything to say about it.

New Mexico State

NMSU warms up prior to a previous SEC game against the University of Alabama (Michael Wade/NM State Athletics).

The Prediction

The team will win six or seven games in the 2023 season, putting it in bowl-game range. Based on prior years and overall team performance, the Aggies have several easy wins: G5 independent U-Mass, FCS Western Illinois, and in-state rival New Mexico.

On the other hand, games against teams like Auburn, WKU, JSU, and Louisiana Tech will be tough to win.

Some games are bigger toss-ups. For example, he Aggies once defeated Middle Tennessee routinely back when the Blue Raiders were in the Sun Belt — but that was in the early 2000s. NMSU trounced Liberty last year; can it come away with a win this year too? Only time will tell.