Tulsa (1-4) at Texas-El Paso (1-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Bowl Stadium (51,500) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: FS1. Home Record: Tulsa 1-2, UTEP 0-3. Away Record: Tulsa 0-2, UTEP 1-1. Neutral Record: Tulsa 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Conference Record: Tulsa 0-1, UTEP 0-2. Series Record: Tulsa leads, 13-8.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Conference USA squads off to sluggish starts will get after each other at Sun Bowl Stadium on Saturday night, as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane tangle with the Miners of Texas-El Paso.
A year removed from going 10-3 with a C-USA championship and a bowl victory, Tulsa has disappointed by going 1-4 out of the gate. After winning their only game of the season at home against Colorado State on Sept. 7 (30-27), the Golden Hurricane suffered a three-game slide, with their most recent setback coming in the C-USA opener versus Rice, 30-27, in overtime.
Similarly, UTEP has also dropped three straight games, losing a pair of home conference bouts to Texas-San Antonio (32-13) and Louisiana Tech (38-35), with a road setback versus Colorado State (59-42) sandwiched in between. Sun Bowl Stadium has held no home field advantage for the Miners of late, as they are 0-3 in El Paso this season and have dropped five in a row at home dating back to last year.
Tulsa holds a 13-8 lead in the all-time series with UTEP, which includes three straight victories. The Golden Hurricane won last year's matchup at home, 33-11.
Tulsa's lack of success this season can be directly attributed to its underperforming offense, which ranks 11th in C-USA in scoring (21.0 ppg) and 10th in yardage (362.0 ypg). The unit converts just 30 percent of its third- down attempts and has already committed an unsightly 13 turnovers.
The inconsistency of Cody Green is a big reason for the struggles of the offense. He throws for 208 yards per game and has five touchdown passes, but he has also tossed five picks and completes less than 53 percent of his pass attempts. Backup Dane Evans has not taken advantage of his opportunities (11- of-25, 101 yards, TD).
Luckily the Golden Hurricane have a reliable tailback to lean on in Trey Watts, who not only has 423 yards and four touchdowns on 88 carries, but acts as the top receiver out of the backfield with 28 receptions for 250 yards.
Jordan James ranks 11th in the conference in receiving yards with 296, although only one of his 21 catches has resulted in a touchdown.
With such a turnover-prone offense, Tulsa's defense is left out to dry multiple times per game, and the unit pays the price by allowing 36.0 ppg.
Michael Mudoh is one of the conference leaders in tackles with 59 and he also has an interception. Shawn Jackson (47 tackles) leads the team with 4.5 TFL and he has picked off two passes and recovered a fumble. Derrick Luetjen, DeWitt Jennings and Derrick Alexander all have two sacks apiece.
Unlike Tulsa, UTEP cannot blame its offense for its poor start, as the unit racks up 33.4 ppg and 420.0 ypg, both of which rank the team third in the conference.
Jameill Showers has taken every snap under center this season for the Miners and has responded with a solid campaign. The junior has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 1,093 yards and has accounted for 14 touchdowns (four rushing) against only two interceptions. He posted four touchdowns in last weekend's losing effort against Louisiana Tech.
The UTEP rushing attack puts up more than 200 yards per contest and is led by the efforts of Aaron Jones, who is the league's third-leading rusher with 467 yards (5.6 ypc) and has found the end zone three times.
Showers' top target in the receiving game is Jordan Leslie. The junior has 383 yards and four touchdowns, and his 17.4 yards per catch is tops in C-USA among receivers with at least 20 receptions.
While the UTEP offense has proven it can keep pace with most teams, the suspect defense has hindered the club by allowing 38.4 ppg and 464.0 ypg.
The unit has recorded just five sacks through five games. Dashone Smith has the team's only two interceptions, Richard Spencer has forced a pair of fumbles and recovered another, and Marcus Bagley leads the way with 31 tackles.
With cornerbacks Adrian James and Da'Carlos Renfro and defensive end James Davidson all listed as questionable for this contest, the UTEP defense could be in even worse shape than usual.
Both defenses have had their share of problems this season, so a high-scoring affair should be expected in this one, but Tulsa's turnover problems are sure to be compounded on the road, and if UTEP's efficient offense gets a few extra opportunities it should find a way to dismiss the Golden Hurricane at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 41, Tulsa 34
10/09 10:39:18 ET