Cajun Opponents Preview – Game 6- New Mexico State
(This is the 6th in series previewing the 2018 opponents of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. Today: New Mexico State. The Cajuns host NMSU for Homecoming on October 13th.)
"...and when we win this game, we'll buy a keg of booze...and we'll drink to the Aggies til we wobble in our shoes."
With only four winning seasons since 1967 and no bowl game since 1960, Aggies' fans haven't wobbled in their shoes very much as their fight song lyrics might suggest...unless it was to drown their sorrows.
But last season, New Mexico State rebounded from a tough loss at Louisiana to win their final two games and became bowl eligible at 6-6. Their reward was a trip to the Arizona Bowl where they knocked off Utah State in overtime 26-20. Head Coach Doug Martin, just 10-38 in his first four seasons, received a new contract after the breakthrough season.
Jettisoned from the Sun Belt Conference after last season, NMSU tries its hand at playing as an independent this season. They have secured a contingency bowl tie in with the Arizona Bowl should the Sun Belt be unable to fill that slot.
2018 is good news, bad news for the Aggies.
First, the bad news. New Mexico State is the only school in the FBS to lose its top passer, runner, receiver and tackler from last year.
Now, the good news. Despite having to replace their top skill people, the Aggies do return two starting receivers and their entire offensive line. Veteran Nick Jeanty and JUCO transfer Matthew Romero have battled for the starting quarterback spot. Romero is listed first on the depth chart. Junior Jason Huntley, who amassed more than 1,000 all purpose yards last season, takes over as the #1 back in place of Larry Rose.
Defensively, New Mexico State allowed 29.7 ppg last season, their best mark in 14 years. They lose top tackler, Dalton Herrington, a first team all conference pick, but return nine starters from a team that set a school record for sacks last season (43). They return their punter, kicker and their top return man.
Putting together an independent schedule isn't easy. NMSU will play only five home games this year and will play fellow FBS Independent Liberty twice. They'll face three former conference brethren in Texas State, Georgia Southern and Louisiana. They also face perennial foes UTEP and New Mexico and have a rematch of their bowl game when they travel to Utah State.
OUTLOOK: It would be unfair to suggest the Aggies will be able to duplicate their offensive numbers from a year ago. They simply won't have as much firepower and certainly won't have the experience. But a pretty solid OL returns intact to make that transition easier. Defensively, this should be Martin's best team and since last year was their best defense in over a decade, that's saying something. The defense will have to play at a high level, especially early while the newbies on offense get their feet on the ground. If their defense is as good as advertised, Aggie fans may be wobbling in their shows several times throughout the season.