New Mexico State vs. Liberty kicks off Friday (12/01/23) at 7 p.m. EST in Lynchburg, Virginia as the host site for the Conference USA Championship. Get New Mexico State vs. Liberty predictions and best bets below. Our best bet is on Liberty to cover the -10 spread as the Flames cap off their magical year with a championship.
New Mexico State vs. Liberty Prediction
Liberty’s season has been nothing short of perfect as it rolls into the conference championship 12-0. The Flames rattled off those 12 wins in fairly dominant fashion and now face the red-hot New Mexico State Aggies in a rematch from earlier in the year. Liberty won that game 33-17. The Aggies have since started to round into elite form, coming off a shocking win against Auburn and taking care of business against Jacksonville State in their regular-season finale.
New Mexico State’s recent success is largely attributable to their quarterback Diego Pavia. He finished the year throwing for 2,727 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Even when throwing at a low rate, Pavia has done it successfully. He has led the Aggies to passing metrics of 49th in Pass Success Rate, 35th in Pass PPA and 24th in Pass Explosiveness. That has done wonders for the offense, spreading opposing second levels thin to help out their ground attack.
The issue this time around is that Liberty’s secondary is more than capable of holding its own. They are 31st in Def Pass Success Rate and 27th in Def Pass PPA. Defending Explosiveness has been an issue for them, ranking 79th in Def Pass Explosiveness. But The Flames have a nose for the ball and routinely cause disruptions through the air by ranking 38th in Havoc.
That level of play may force New Mexico State’s offense to lean heavily towards the run. That style of offense may not be enough to keep up with Liberty’s scoring pace. Especially with Liberty at least being able to slow down the Aggies rush attack with league average marks in Def Rush Success Rate and PPA while also having massive advantages on the other end. Liberty ranks 60th in Def Rush Success Rate and PPA yet checks in at third in Rush Success Rate and sixth in Rush PPA.
That is potentially a huge dilemma for an Aggies defense which has struggled to limit opposing offensive production. While the Aggies have fared well at limiting opposing pass attacks, their front seven has been bowled over. They rank 91st in Def Rush Success Rate and 90th in Def Rush EPA. They fail to generate Havoc as well, meaning that tackles for loss and contact in the backfield comes at a low rate. Expect Liberty to capitalize on its offensive possessions while doing just enough to slow down NMSU in order to cover the spread.
New Mexico State vs. Liberty Prediction: Liberty -10
New Mexico State vs. Liberty Best Odds
Even fresh off two impressive wins against Auburn and Jacksonville State, oddsmakers still comfortably lean toward Liberty by opening them as a -14 favorite. Bettors believe that number opened way too high, backing the Aggies down to as low as -10 as of this writing.
As for the total, oddsmakers believe points will be scored at a fast pace by opening the number at 52.5. Bettors believe points will come at an even faster rate, backing the over up to as low as 55. A curious movement as both teams’ success will stem from the ground game, a style of offense that heavily correlates to an under.
New Mexico State vs. Liberty Key Matchups
Can Kaidon Salter find success through the air against the Aggies secondary?
Kaidon Salter vs. New Mexico State Secondary
Even though Liberty throws at one of the lowest rates in the nation, ranking 130th in Pass Play Rate, they do it at a very elite level as they rank 19th in Pass Success Rate, second in PPA and second in Pass Explosiveness. Their pass success stems from their ground game, giving Salter the benefit of throwing against a stacked box.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before… Kaidon Salter finds CJ Daniels for a @LibertyFootball touchdown!
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) November 25, 2023
He should find himself in a similar situation as New Mexico State’s defense will have to sell out by stacking the box to even have a chance to slow down Liberty’s ground game as previously mentioned. This opens up gaps on the outside, potentially connecting on another big gain through the play action pass against an anchored second level of the Aggies defense.