Liberty vs New Mexico State match preview, prediction

Liberty (8-3) and New Mexico State (4-6) meet for the first time in three years as they renew their rivalry on Saturday. The Flames and Aggies last met on Senior Day 2019 when Liberty took the win to become bowlable for the first time in school history.

Under freshman head coach Jerry Kill, NMSU started the season 4-0 but has bounced back and won four of their last seven games. The Aggies have victories against Hawaii, New Mexico, UMass and Lamar and lose 45-14 in Missouri.

“I love Jerry. Not a ton (of interaction). We’ve been on two Nike trips together,” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said of his relationship with Coach Kill. “I really like the guy. I think he’s a hard-nosed old-school football coach and it shows on his team. I mean, his defense is playing the lights. They’re probably not where he wants them offensively, but they’re very smart. Apparently we were at Conference USA meetings together this past spring and came up with some sort of reunion. I think about him a lot. He does it right too. It’s for the kids. He’s a great ambassador for college football.”

The Aggies have only had over 23 points against an FBS opponent so far this season when they defeated Hawaii 45-26 as they average just 19.3 points per game. Diego Pavia was the main signal caller for New Mexico State this season. He completed just 46.5% of his 127 passes for 746 yards, 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He also played the ball 58 times for 289 yards and 2 scores.

Gavin Frakes has played in all 10 games for the Aggies. The freshman quarterback has completed 50 of 100 passes for 678 yards, 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions while rushing 32 times for 145 yards and two points.

Justice Powers leads all receivers with 17 receptions for 323 yards. Kordell David has 13 catches for 143 yards and 2 points. Bryce Childress added 13 receptions for 133 yards.

Star Thomas leads the team in rushing with 405 yards and 4 touchdowns while Jamoni Jones has 279 yards and 4 touchdowns.

“They just don’t let you create negative plays,” Freeze said. “They’re just going to move the bag, throw fast play, try to run the football, jab and then play defense when things go that way. They agree and play to their strengths. It’s the Jerry Kill personality that I got to know.”

The future members of Conference USA are expected to meet frequently in the future as both current FBS Independent members move to their new league homes beginning with the 2023 season.

“I challenged our kids to finish strong and win nine games in the regular season, which I think is an incredible achievement given the schedule we had and the injuries we faced,” Freeze said . “Excited to see how they react this week.”

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FORECAST

Liberty 31, State of New Mexico 17

Line: Freedom -23.5

Picks results this year:
Direct: 8-3
ATS: 7-4

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