Texas-El Paso (2-9) at Middle Tennessee (7-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 3:45 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Floyd Stadium (30,788) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: Local. Home Record: UTEP 1-4, MT 4-1. Away Record: UTEP 1-3, MT 3-3. Neutral Record: UTEP 0-0, MT 0-0. Conference Record: UTEP 1-6, MT 5-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Miners of Texas-El Paso try to close out the 2013 campaign on a positive note as they clash with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in Conference USA action at Floyd Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Miners have won a total of two games this season, taking down New Mexico State (42-21) and FIU (33-10), and along the way the team has been blown out by several opponents. One of those lopsided outcomes took place last weekend as the Miners came up lame in a 45-3 loss to Tulane on the road.
With a record of 1-6 in conference play, UTEP is bringing up the rear in the West Division of C-USA.
As for the Blue Raiders, they are currently sitting in third place in the East Division with a 5-2 mark. The squad has ripped off four straight wins, after losing three in a row, with the latest triumph coming against woeful Southern Miss last Saturday, 42-21.
While these teams are currently in the same conference, this is actually the first-ever meeting between the football teams.
Before they knew what hit them, the Miners found themselves down by four touchdowns against the Green Wave last weekend. It wasn't until Jay Mattox knocked through a 32-yard field goal late in the first half that the bleeding stopped momentarily. Unfortunately, the UTEP offense had very little to offer in the meeting, the unit combining for just 49 net rushing yards and 183 yards through the air.
Mack Leftwich converted 13-of-24 passes for 128 yards, was sacked twice and had a pass picked off. Eric Tomlinson accounted for 71 yards on four receptions.
The defense surrendered 482 yards, allowing Tulane to average better than seven yards per play. On a positive note, the Miners did force three punts in as many possessions in the second half, but that was only after the game was well in hand.
On the season, UTEP has permitted a hefty 242.7 ypg on the ground, ranking the group 116th in the country this week. The secondary hasn't been much better, sporting a pass efficiency defensive rating of 167.55, which means there are only a handful of program at the FBS level that are having a harder time slowing down opposing passing attacks.
Unfortunately, the outlook isn't much brighter on the other side of the ball after 11 games, as the team ranks 100th in total offense with just 352.4 ypg. Aaron Jones has tried to give the group something to be proud of with his 811 yards and four touchdowns on 155 rushing attempts, the same goes for Jordan Leslie with 42 catches for 599 yards and seven TDs.
However, the Miners have had a host of quarterbacks try their hand at directing the offense and it just hasn't worked. Collectively, they're averaging 167.0 ypg and have tossed just 14 TDs, against 10 INTs.
Against the worst team in the FBS, the Blue Raiders had little trouble taking care of business on Saturday as Shane Tucker ran for two touchdowns and 103 yards and Logan Kilgore converted 11-of-25 passes for 172 yards and another score. Middle Tennessee finished with 418 yards of total offense.
On the defensive side, the Blue Raiders posted seven sacks, two each by Shaquille Huff and Leighton Gasque. Overall, the unit produced 10 tackles for loss, while Kevin Byard and T.T. Barber both returned interceptions for touchdowns in the first half.
Through 11 games, Barber leads the team in total tackles with 107 and has both 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks to his credit as well. Byard comes in with 88 stops and five interceptions, helping to push the Blue Raiders to ninth in the country in turnover margin with a plus-1.1 per game.
Offensively, the Blue Raiders have done the majority of their damage on the ground with 21 touchdowns and just under 200 ypg as they average a shade below five yards per carry. Parker heads the list with 656 yards and five TDs. Through the air, Kilgore has been up and down with 60.3 percent completions and 14 TDs, but also 10 INTs.
The Miners have been dreadful this season and the fact that their only wins have come against dismal opponents just amplifies how much work the program has in front of it before becoming respectable.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 41, Texas-El Paso 23
11/27 11:08:56 ET