Texas-El Paso (1-2) at Wisconsin (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 12:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321) -- Madison, Wisconsin. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UTEP 1-1, Wisconsin 2-0. Away Record: UTEP 0-1, Wisconsin 0-1. Neutral Record: UTEP 0-0, Wisconsin 0-0. Conference Record: UTEP 0-0, Wisconsin 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Wisconsin Badgers are set to close out the non-conference portion of their schedule on Saturday afternoon when they host the Texas-El Paso Miners at Camp Randall Stadium.
This marks the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between these two schools.
Wisconsin will put its 18-game home winning streak on the line, which is currently the second-longest active home win streak in the nation behind LSU (20). The Badgers are also riding a 25-game home win streak against non- conference opponents, which dates back to 2003. A week after suffering a 10-7 loss at Oregon State, the Badgers had to sweat out a 16-14 home win over Utah State this past weekend.
This also marks the final non-conference tuneup for UTEP. Beginning this week, the Miners will play three of their next four on the road. After opening the 2012 campaign with losses to Oklahoma and Ole Miss, the Miners broke into the win column with a 41-28 triumph over New Mexico State last weekend.
UTEP senior quarterback Nick Lamaison was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for his role in the Miners' win over New Mexico State. Lamaison threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns in that game, as he helped the Miners jump out to a 27-7 halftime lead by throwing for 204 yards and two scores on 16- of-22 passing. UTEP's offense scored touchdowns on each of its first four possessions en route to its best offensive performance of the season. Wideout Jordan Leslie hauled in seven passes for a career-high 147 yards, while Lamaison also got his tight ends involved with two TD throws. In addition to the passing game working in high gear, the Miners finished with 177 yards on the ground. Freshman Autrey Golden ran for a personal-best 69 yards on 12 carries.
UTEP's defense also put forth a solid effort against the Aggies, totaling seven tackles for losses and three sacks for the game. NMSU was held to 14 points until adding a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter with the game well out of reach. The Miners were strong against the run, limiting the Aggies to 3.2 yards per carry on 35 attempts as a team. It was a good sign for the Miners defense after getting gashed on the ground by Ole Miss (332 yards) and Oklahoma (205 yds, 5.5 ypc) in the first two games. However, they had some trouble with Aggies wideouts Austin Franklin and Kemonte Bateman, who combined for 14 catches, 222 receiving yards and three TDs.
The Badger offense has been slow to get going in the early part of the season. They were able to squeak out a victory over Utah State thanks mostly to a missed 37-yard field goal by Aggies kicker Josh Thompson in the final seconds of regulation. One of Wisconsin's two touchdowns came on an 82-yard punt return by Kenzel Doe in the third quarter, while senior running back Montee Ball scored the go-ahead TD on a 17-yard run with 3:06 to play in the third. The Badgers enter this tilt ranked 113th nationally in scoring offense (16.3 ppg) and 116th in total offense (276 ypg). Against USU, they converted only 3-of-15 third downs.
Ball, who has scored 63 touchdowns already at Wisconsin, enters the weekend 16 TDs short of breaking the NCAA career record. He is currently tied with former Badger Ron Dayne for eighth in NCAA history and leads all active players. In fact, he is 24 touchdowns ahead of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's total of 39, which ranks second among active players.
Through two games, Wisconsin's defense is allowing just 82.0 rushing yards per game to rank 17th nationally. After allowing just 19.0 points per game last season, the D is yielding just 15.0 ppg three games into the 2012 campaign. In three games, the Badgers' opponents have combined for a mere four trips inside the red zone. Last week, Utah State managed only 13 first downs and 308 yards of total offense, as the Aggies converted just 6-of-19 third downs. Senior Mike Taylor leads the way for UW with 12.0 tackles per game, as UW's starting linebackers have combined to average 26.0 tackles.
Since Bret Bielema became the head coach in 2006, Wisconsin has gone 41-3 at home, with the three losses all coming at the hands of BCS bowl teams. Meanwhile, the Miners are 0-16 all-time in road games versus BCS conference teams. The Badgers may not be firing on all cylinders just yet, but this is the kind of matchup that could propel them in that direction.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 42, Texas-El Paso 20
09/19 10:42:36 ET