Winless UTEP takes on a 1-8 Rice team in a Conference USA battle on Saturday. The Miners fell to UAB last week, 19-0 at home as a 14.5-point underdog. Rice covered but fell at North Texas, 41-17 as a 30-point dog. These teams met last season from El Paso, with the Owls winning, 31-14.
UTEP has quarterback issues
Kai Locksley started for UTEP last week against UAB, completing 7 of 11 for 52 yards. But Locksley suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Brandon Jones, who went 5 of 9 for 49 yards and ran for 16 yards. Jone was also tackled in the end zone for a safety int he third quarter.
UTEP’s defense played well, holding UAB to 357 yards and just 92 in the air. But their offense was simply dreadful, totaling 120 yards including just 19 rushing yards on 28 carries. The biggest issue was on the offensive line, which was riddled with injuries and poor play.
Locksley, the son of Alabama offensive coordinator Mike, has struggled this season, completing just 50 percent of his passes for 579 yards and 359 rushing yards with four scores. If he can’t go, Jones has 147 passing yards and two rushing TDs this season.
UTEP will need more from their running game led by Quadraiz Wadley, who has 384 yards on the ground. UTEP ranks 126th on offense (296.2ypg), 115th as a passing team (165.5ypg) and 129 in points per game (15.4). They are excellent against the pass (172.8ypg), ranking 14th. But they are poor against the run, allowing teams to rush for 210.2ypg. Fortunately, Rice is not a very good running team.
Rice fights hard but falls to Mean Green
With 12:50 left in the third quarter, Rice had tied the game, 17-17 on a 3-yard pass from Wiley Green to Aaron Cephus. But that was it for the Owls’ offense as North Texas woke up to score the next 24 points, led by three touchdowns from running back Deandre Torry.
Rice was led by Green, who completed 21 of 37 for 204 yards with one TD. They possessed the ball for over 36 minutes but had just 299 yards of total offense. They also converted just 3-of-14 on third down and committed eight penalties for 99 yards.
Bloomgren talking about UTEP & the challenge this year’s squad presents. pic.twitter.com/VzDfqoBa9M
— Glynn Hill (@RiceChron) October 30, 2018
You know you are struggling when the football program is pushing the punter for the Ray Guy Award. Not that there’s anything wrong with Jack Fox, who is averaging 45.7 yards per punt, but there’s little else to talk about. In their last four games against North Texas, FIU, UAB and UTSA, the Owls have scored just 37 points and were shut out against UAB (as was UTEP).
Offensively, they aren’t much better than UTEP. The Owls are averaging just 317.9 yards per game (123rd) and 170.7 passing yards (112th). The defense is allowing 446.6 yards per game (110th) and 270.3 passing yards (108th). With QB Shawn Stankavage (1,011 yards passing) out for the season, the Owls have turned to Green, who has 212 passing yards with one TD and two picks. Running back Austin Walter leads all runners with 537 yards and four TDs (4.3ypc).
- 2-8 ATS last 10 home games.
- 5-12-1 ATS last 18 after scoring less than 20 points in their previous game.
- 3-1-1 ATS last 5 road games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Yes, this is a bad game. But this might be UTEP’s last chance for a win. They have Middle Tennessee State at home, Western Kentucky on the road and Southern Miss at home. So this could be it for the Miners. But let’s face it, they actually have a defense. Rice doesn’t have an offense or a defense and their only win came against Prairie View so they have no viable wins either. UTEP is the better team in this matchup.
Prediction: UTEP +1
Full-Game Total Pick
This could be a 6-3 baseball-type of score. Both teams have terrible offenses and could end up starting backup quarterbacks. At least UTEP has an excellent passing defense. Rice hasn’t scored over 20 points since September. UTEP is 23-11 Under their last 34 conference games.
Prediction: Under 45.5