Texas-San Antonio (1-2) at Texas-El Paso (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Bowl (51,500) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: Fox College Sports. Home Record: UTSA 0-1, UTEP 0-1. Away Record: UTSA 1-1, UTEP 1-0. Neutral Record: UTSA 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Conference Record: UTSA 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: In the Conference USA opener for both teams, the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners and the Texas-El Paso Miners will face off in a Lone Star State showdown at the Sun Bowl.
Although these two squads both call the state of Texas home, this will be the first-ever meeting between the teams. That is due in large part to the fact that UTSA has only had a football program for the last three seasons.
UTSA took a non-conference tour of the Southwest in its first three games. The Roadrunners opened with a 21-13 road victory over New Mexico, before taking losses to Oklahoma State (56-35) and Arizona (38-13). Since joining the FBS ranks last season, UTSA is a combined 9-6, although the Roadrunners were members of the Western Athletic Conference a year ago.
UTEP also has roots in the WAC but has been a C-USA member since 2005. The Miners have been playing exclusively against teams from the Land of Enchantment thus far. UTEP opened the season with a 42-35 overtime loss to New Mexico and then captured a 42-21 road win over New Mexico State. UTEP is under a new head coach as Sean Kugler took over following the team's 3-9 finish last season.
Although they are averaging a healthy 425.7 yards per game, while scoring touchdowns on 78 percent of their red zone trips, UTSA is still averaging just 23.9 points per game. The Roadrunners have struggled to sustain drives whether due to turnovers (-1.3 turnover margin, second to last in the league) or struggles on third down (17-of-40).
If the Roadrunners hope to compete in Conference USA they will need quarterback Eric Soza to cut down on some of the poor decisions he has made. He is completing 62 percent of his pass attempts, but has been intercepted three times on the campaign. It has taken away from his strong numbers in passing yards (822) and hi five touchdown passes.
Eight different receivers have at least five receptions for the Roadrunners, led by Kam Jones (13 receptions, 132 yards). However, Jones and Kenny Harrison, who is second on the team in yards (109) and receptions (10), have not been able to spread the field much, with both providing more in the short passing game. Kenny Bias (163 yards, eight receptions) is the big-play receiver that Soza needs to utilize more often.
The Roadrunners' lack of a passing attack has not helped the running game. David Glasco (108 yards, two TDs) is the leading rusher for a team averaging a mediocre 4.2 yards per carry.
While the offense has struggled to put points on the board, the defense for the Roadrunners has had no trouble letting other teams light it up. UTSA is surrendering more than 35 points and 430 yards per game. A lack of forced turnovers has held UTSA back. The Roadrunners have just a single fumble recovery and zero interceptions thus far. Getting more pressure on the quarterback would help, with just five sacks.
Codie Brooks has two of those quarterback takedowns, while Triston Wade (27 tackles) leads a group of nine players to have already made double-digit stops. Andre Brown has been the best performer in pass coverage with three pass breakups.
On the other sideline, UTEP has had absolutely no problem scoring this season. The Miners are averaging 38.5 points per game, which ranks second in the conference behind Marshall. That is also the position the Miners are in when it comes to total offense (472.5 ypg).
The offensive success has come primarily on the ground. As a team the Miners have 573 yards rushing and just 372 through the air. Aaron Jones (33 carries, 233 yards, three TDs) has been the workhorse, leading the way in carries, yards and rushing touchdowns. The Miners have scored nine touchdowns on the ground as a team.
Former Texas A&M quarterback Jameill Showers, who lost his job to Johnny Manziel last year and then transferred, hasn't been asked to do too much under center. Showers has just 48 pass attempts on the year. However, he has made the most of the chances with a 68.8 completion percentage.
Jordan Leslie (12 receptions, 115 yards) and Ian Hamilton (10 receptions 123 yards) are by far Showers' favorite targets. No other player on the team has more than three receptions.
Despite the bruising offensive attack, the Miners are not dominating foes due to a lack of defensive pressure. UTEP opponents have scored more than 30 points per game and are tallying just over 440 yards of total offense. While second in total offense, the Miners are second to last in total defense in Conference USA.
James Davidson is one of five defenders with a double-digit tackle total (11) and has the team's only sack and one of just three tackles for loss.
It is unlikely that play on the defensive side of the ball will dictate the winner in this contest. Both teams have enjoyed success on offense, but the Miners have been much more productive in turning that success into points. The trend will likely continue.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 35, Texas-San Antonio 31
09/18 10:37:38 ET