LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – After going 1-1 in two home games to open the 2023 season, New Mexico State now has three road games in a row to end September: At Liberty, at rival New Mexico and at Hawai’i.

The Aggies’ trip to face the Flames this week will be the first Conference USA game for both NMSU and Liberty.

They are, of course, two of the four new schools added to CUSA in time for the 2023 season and they’ll open the league slate against each other on Saturday night in Virginia.

It’s the first time that NMSU football has been in a conference since they were kicked out of the Sun Belt in 2017 and joining CUSA from the ranks of the FBS Independents was one of the major reasons why head coach Jerry Kill came to Las Cruces.

“It wasn’t about me, it was about the kids,” Kill said. “When you are an independent, it’s hard to get a schedule No. 1; No. 2, you can’t be an All-Conference player, you can’t win a conference and it’s darn hard to get in a bowl game. If you get in a conference, you have a lot of chances to do a lot of things. I think it’s easier to recruit to a team that is going to be in a conference than an independent unless you’re Notre Dame or someone like that.”

NMSU and Liberty are by no means strangers; the Aggies and Flames have played five times since 2018, including last season, when the Aggies blew out Liberty on their home field. All of the meetings have come when both schools were FBS Independents.

Liberty has gotten the better of the Aggies in three of those games, with NMSU winning the first clash in 2018 and the most recent showdown in 2022.

“All of the years they have played, they have been good,” Kill said. “Financially they are ahead of a lot of people and probably everybody in the league. Their facilities are unbelievable. It’s a great place to go play. We will play in front of, I’m sure, a packed house. They are excited about their team and what they are doing.”

Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. MT on Saturday at Liberty and the game will air on ESPN+.