Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#307 North Texas vs.
#308 UTEP
Saturday, August 27, 2022 at 9:00pm EDT
Written by Mark Ruelle

The 2022 college football season kicks off with a seven-game slate on Saturday. One such battle will be a Conference USA showdown between the North Texas Mean Green and the UTEP Miners. In 2021, North Texas finished just ahead of the Miners in 3rd place in the Western Division of Conference USA.

Head-to-head, the Mean Green squeaked out a 20-17 victory over UTEP in Dallas. Conference USA has undergone significant changes this offseason with the departures of three schools and six more to leave after this season, while four more will hop aboard. With that in mind, the conference has gone away from having two divisions and just one 11-team conference. Last season, eight of the 14 teams in the conference were bowl eligible. Saturday's matchup against two bowl teams in 2021 could be a critical opening week matchup. Kickoff for the opening game for both schools is set for 8:00pm EST in El Paso, Texas.

Mean Green looks to contineu momentum

North Texas comes into the 2022 campaign off of a very strong finish in 2021. The team started the season at 1-6 but then rebounded to win five-straight games and earn a bowl game trip. The highlight of their season was an upset victory over previously undefeated UTSA, 45-23 to even their record at 6-6. The win secured the Mean Green bowl eligibility for the fifth time in six seasons under head coach Seth Littrell. It was their 13th bowl appearance all-time. They would fall to Miami of Ohio 23-14 to finish the season at 6-7. The Mean Green are now 3-10 bowl games. in their history.

North Texas changed their fortunes in 2021 when the team went to a more ground-based attack. In the team's season-closing five-game winning streak, they averaged 283 rushing yards per game. There are three viable candidates to start at running back this season with both Ikaika Ragsdale and Ayo Adeyi back after combining for 1,030 yards last season as well as Oscar Adaway, who is returning from an injury that cost him the entire 2021 season. The Mean Green quarterback position is putting a new spin on veteran leadership with 28-year old Austin Aune earning the starting spot again this season. His primary role will be to take advantage of play-action opportunities as the Mean Green's ground attack tries to chew up yards and time.

Defensively, North Texas will be led by senior linebacker, KD Davis, a preseason Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year candidate. The fifth-year senior has led the team in tackles in each of the last three seasons and earned All-Conference honors in 2021. Davis may be looking for help, however, as the Mean Green only returns three other starters from last year's defense. This could be an issue considering that North Texas was one of the worst defensive teams in the conference in 2020 and showed some improvement last year but still was among the bottom half of defensive units in Conference USA.

 

Looking to Bowl Again

The UTEP Miners, like their season-opening opponent North Texas, also went bowling in 2021 and are anxious to do so again this year. Unlike North Texas, the Miners bowl appearance was the team's first in seven years. They also have the luxury of a number of players returning, particularly on offense. They lost their top receiver, Jacob Cowing, as he transferred to Arizona but return their quarterback Gavin Hardison. Hardison threw for 3,223 yards last season and 18 touchdowns. Hardison's main thrust this season will be to get more sustainable drives for the Miners. UTEP was just 89th in scoring last season but second nationally in plays of 40 or more yards.

UTEP will be challenged with slowing down the North Texas ground game once again this season. Last season, the Miners' defense allowed the Mean Green to run for 183 yards and one score and allowed them to convert on three of four 4th down attempts. The defense continues to get better and the Miners are a far cry from a defense that was 119th in scoring in 2019 as they finished 2021 ranked 53rd in the country. One thing the Miners will certainly work on is their finishing kick. They lost four out of their last five conference games in 2021 and lost out on the chance to play in a more significant bowl game with that finish.

 

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Full-Game Side Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

This is a very favorable line out of the gate for a Miners' team that finished 5-1 at home last season. In 2021, the Miners relied on a big-play offense and an improving defense but struggled down the stretch when the big plays were harder to come by. I am confident that quarterback Gavin Hardison and the offensive staff will do a better job this season of relying on more time-consuming drives and not focusing solely on the home run play. In addition, the Miners should be much better equipped to handle the Mean Green's ground game both from a film standpoint with last year's contest and the fact that the team has known for some time that North Texas would be their first opponent so that they should be able to scheme accordingly. UTEP has the better defense, a strong home-field advantage and a more explosive offense.

Lay the half a point and go with the Miners.

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Prediction: UTEP -.5

Full-Game Total Pick

Insiders Status:

Rating:

When the Miners were playing their best football in 2021, they were consistently under the game total, going 1-6 to the over in the team's first seven games. During the team's final six games, however, the Miners went 5-1 to the over but lost five times in that stretch. North Texas was 3-2 to the under during their five-game winning streak down the stretch in 2021. While they will likely struggle on defense to start the season as they incorporate seven new starters into an already subpar defense, the Mean Green ground game is designed to slow the game down and move the clock. They should do that in this spot with enough success to keep this game under the total.

Take the under, 54.5 points.

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Prediction: Under 54.5
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Written By Mark Ruelle , "Mark Ruelle"

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.