Liberty at New Mexico State
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 6, Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, N.M., 8 p.m. EDT.
Liberty’s adventures as a first-year FBS school take the Flames to New Mexico for the first of two games between the two independent schools this season.
The Flames (2-2) made the jump from the FCS starting this season while the Aggies (1-4) became an independent after being dropped from the Sun Belt Conference after the end of last season. The two teams became scheduling buddies out of necessity, and this will be the first of four 1,800-yard trips over the next two seasons as the schools will play home-and-home series.
It is the first time since 1998 that two schools played each other twice in the regular season, with UConn and UMass playing twice as the Huskies were making their transition to the FBS level while the Minutemen remained at the FCS level.
Flames try sweep New Mexico road swing
Liberty (2-2) has made the most of its travel budget as it turned this trip into a two-week odyssey through “The Land of Enchantment.” The Flames recorded their first road win at the FBS level with a 52-43 win last Saturday in Albuquerque against New Mexico.
Stephen Calvert threw for 413 yards and three touchdowns as Liberty scored 42 first-half points and withstood a late charge by New Mexico, which closed within 49-43 with 5:07 to play. Antonio Gandy-Golden set a school record with 245 receiving yards on 11 catches after entering the game with 14 receptions for 137 yards.
That scoring drive was brought to you by AGG!
Gandy-Golden with two catches on that drive for 50 yards! The junior now has a career-high 195 receiving yards! #RiseWithUs #ThisIsLiberty pic.twitter.com/LgbsbIbWgY
— Liberty Football (@LibertyFootball) September 30, 2018
“We knew they were going to try to press us and initially we thought they were fast and we thought we weren’t going to beat them over top,” Gandy-Golden told The News & Advance. “So we thought they were going to bail because that’s how every other team has been bailing on us, and so the only thing that leaves us — we can’t go over the top if they’re bailing — we have to go back shoulder. That was kind of the case, but we were big enough and fast enough and strong enough to get over the top. We also had a bunch of over-the-top throws.”
Calvert has shown few issues making the transition to the FBS level, throwing for 1,291 yards and 10 TDs against only three interceptions. The Flames have averaged 338.5 passing yards, and equally impressive is Calvert being sacked only six times while attempting 153 passes.
If there is an area of concern, it is an undersized defensive unit getting steamrolled in run defense. Liberty has given up 510 or more yards in its last three games and been gashed for 1,135 rushing yards in its four games.
Aggies trying to build on first win
New Mexico State (1-4), which won a bowl game to end last season with a three-game winning streak, broke through for its first victory of 2018 on Sept. 22 with a 27-20 victory at Texas-El Paso.
Winner winner, chicken dinner❗ The spade & spittoon remain in the City of Crosses as we take down UTEP, 27-20‼️
— NM State Football (@NMStateFootball) September 23, 2018
Josh Adkins and Royce Caldwell hooked up on a 53-yard go-ahead touchdown pass late in the third quarter, but all three groups contributed points for the Aggies as Izaiah Lotte returned a blocked punt 19 yards for a touchdown 1:55 into the game and Malik Demby rumbled 55 yards with a fumble recovery in the final minute of the first half.
— NM State Football (@NMStateFootball) September 23, 2018
Adkins finished 9 of 18 for 156 yards and that lone touchdown in his first start following the benching of Matt Romero while Christian Gibson — who blocked the punt that led to Lotte’s score — made the most of his 10 carries to rush for a career-high 103 yards.
New Mexico State’s offense has picked up following Adkins’ insertion into the lineup as the Aggies have totaled 679 yards in their last two games. An area they have to improve regardless of who is under center is converting on third down — New Mexico State went 6 of 12 on such scenarios against UTEP but is just 22 of 76 on third down overall.
New Mexico State is:
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games as a home underdog.
- 0-4 ATS in its last four games following a bye week.
- 9-20-1 ATS in its last 30 games following an ATS win.
- The under is 9-1-1 in its last 11 home games.
- The under is 5-1-1 in its last seven games as a home underdog.
- The under is 5-2 in its last seven games following a straight up win.
- 12-2 ATS in its last 14 road games.
- 13-3 ATS in its last 16 games.
- 12-2 ATS in its last 14 games after allowing 450 yards or more in its previous game.
- The under is 8-3 in its last 11 games.
- The under is 7-2 in its last nine road games.
- The under is 5-0 in its last five games following a straight up win.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
This is somewhat of a risky pick given it is Liberty’s second straight road game and a second straight road game in New Mexico. But the Flames’ offense has shown enough potency to at least make this game competitive with a chance to steal a victory from Las Cruces and sweep of this odd two-game road swing.
Prediction: Pick: Liberty -4 (-105)
Full-Game Total Pick
While Liberty’s run defense is paper tissue-soft, the Aggies do not exactly strike much fear into opponents offensively. Adkins appears to be an improvement over Romero for New Mexico State, but if the Aggies cannot contain Gandy-Golden and Liberty’s pass offense, asking the redshirt freshman to win a game as opposed to not lose it in his second collegiate start appears to big an ask in terms of putting up points on the board.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 62.5 points (-110)
Half-Time Side Pick
After scoring 21 points in the first half of its first three games, the Flames erupted for 42 against New Mexico last time out. The Aggies have given up a staggering 104 first-half points in their five games, which makes Liberty a strong pick giving less than a field goal.
Prediction: Pick: Liberty -2.5 (-110)
Half-Time Total Bet
Trying to thread the needle again with an over/half, under/final, New Mexico’s first-half struggles defensively coupled with a rejuvenated Liberty offense fuel this pick, but the Flames have given up an average of 14.5 first-half points to help sway this pick.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 33 points (-110)