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UTEP at Western Kentucky
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 17, Houchens Industries-L.T. Stadium, Bowling Green, Ky., 7:30 p.m. EST.
A pair of one-win teams trying to lay down a building block for next season meet Saturday night when Western Kentucky looks for its first Conference USA victory at the expense of UTEP.
Miners trying to regroup after being denied back-to-back wins
UTEP (1-9, 1-5 C-USA West) lost for the 21st time in 22 games last weekend, stretching a run without back-to-back victories dating back to 2015 to 42 games with a 48-32 defeat to Middle Tennessee.
Quardraiz Wadley ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns for the Miners, who topped 30 points in consecutive contests in conference play for the first time since 2014. UTEP has scored 66 of its 189 points in the last two games, with Wadley rushing for 190 yards.
4Q | Wadley scores his 2nd TD, a nine-yard dash to pay dirt [2-pt conv. good] | 12:25
— UTEP Football (@UTEPFB) November 10, 2018
As the Miners have improved their play of late, first-year coach Dana Dimel is trying to help his team keep an even keel as opposed to dealing with the pressure of a winnable game.
“We didn’t feel pressure against Rice,” Dimel told the El Paso Times. “You’d think it could be the case but I didn’t feel like we felt pressure. For us, it’s just continuing to control what we can control, getting guys stepping up and playing all four quarters. Playing hard for each other. …
“We need to put all the elements together, that’s what our team is focusing on right now. Can we execute at a high level all four quarters? We know what we can do at times, now we need to put it together.”
Dimel said a quarterback rotation is likely for a second straight week since Kai Locksley is not 100 percent due to a foot injury. Both Locksley and Brandon Jones threw touchdown passes against the Blue Raiders and combined for 218 yards, and Locksley had a team-high 935 yards but only three passing scores.
Hilltoppers out to avoid seventh straight loss
It has been a staggeringly quick fall from the elite for Western Kentucky (1-9, 0-6 East), which won 12 games in 2015, 11 in 2016 and went 6-7 in last season. The Hilltoppers are mired in their longest losing streak since going 0-12 in their first season in the Sun Belt Conference in 2009, which was their third season at the FBS level.
They are coming off a 34-15 loss at Florida Atlantic last weekend, hanging tough for three quarters before giving up 17 points. Steven Duncan threw for 228 yards and a touchdown, continuing what coach Mike Sanford called small steps of progress.
— Stadium (@WatchStadium) November 10, 2018
“I thought a couple factors, I think he has shown some growth and has done some really good things, he threw some good balls,” he said at his weekly press conference. “But also the growth that he’ll have from one week to the next in red zone situations and identifying coverages, being in those situations again [and again]. He’ll be better because of that, no doubt.
“The other thing too about him is he’s durably-built, he has proven to be the quarterback that played the majority of the snaps this year that can play week-in and week-out physically. And that plays huge, just the durability of who he is.”
The bigger issue for Sanford and the Hilltoppers is finding quick fixes for a defense that was shredded for a season-worst 576 yards by the Owls — the seventh time it has allowed 400 or more yards. Western Kentucky has given up 29 or more points in its last five games and at least 20 in every contest.
The Hiltoppers have allowed an average of 462.5 yards and 33.0 points during their losing streak.
Duncan has thrown for 765 yards and six touchdowns with five interceptions while completing 58.2 percent of his passes. The sophomore had been splitting snaps with Davis Shanley before being the full-time quarterback last week.
Western Kentucky is:
- 0-5 ATS in its last five games vs. Conference USA teams.
- 5-16 ATS in its last 21 games following a straight up loss.
- 1-6 ATS in its last seven games after allowing more than 200 rushing yards in the previous game.
- The over is 7-1 in its last eight home games.
- The over is 19-7 in its last 26 home games vs. teams with a sub-.500 road record.
- The over is 6-1 in its last seven games as a favorite.
- 4-0 ATS in its last four road games.
- 3-1-1 ATS in its last five games as a road underdog.
- 4-1 ATS in its last five games following a straight up loss.
- The over is 5-2 in its last seven games following an ATS loss.
- The over is 4-1 in its last five games vs. sub-.500 teams.
- The over is 4-1 in its last five road games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
There are few places where these teams separate themselves, but the one area that gives the Miners a distinct advantage is Wadley. He has given UTEP a consistent source of offense the past two weeks, and while Dimel’s team has just one win, his team has been methodically making progress over the course of the season.
Additionally, the Miners’ lone win came on the road, and while they may face the pressure of this being a winnable game, they at least can fall back on a winning experience to keep this game close and cover.
Prediction: Pick: UTEP +7
Full-Game Total Pick
The combination of UTEP’s improved offense and Western Kentucky’s inconsistent defense is a strong foundation for the over to hit here, and while the Hilltoppers have struggled offensively while settling on a quarterback, the Miners have also had plenty of issues defensively. UTEP has given up 24 or more points in all five of its road games and given up an average of 32.6 points in those contests.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 47.5 points
Half-Time Side Pick
Dimel has the Miners not only pointing in the right direction, they are also playing their best football of the season. The hedge is UTEP gets the job done here via Wadley and is leading outright at halftime.
Prediction: Pick: UTEP +4
Half-Time Total Bet
The fact this line stayed under 24 points is the primary reason for taking the over, with the expectation it will stay close enough that both teams register at least two scores to clear 23.5 points.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 23.5 points