Five Way-Too-Early Takeaways from UTEP Football’s 2019 Schedule
Today, UTEP athletics announced the full 2019 football schedule for the Miners, which wrapped up what we already knew about the schedule, plus some slight surprises.
“We’re moving to year two and wanting to get the culture established in our second season,” UTEP coach Dana Dimel said. “I’m looking forward to seeing that take shape as we take the field.”
2019 UTEP Football Schedule
Aug. 31 Houston Baptist
Sept. 7 at Texas Tech
Sept. 21 Nevada
Sept. 28 at Southern Miss*
Oct. 5 UTSA*
Oct. 19 at FIU*
Oct. 26 LA Tech*
Nov. 2 at North Texas*
Nov. 9 Charlotte*
Nov. 16 at UAB*
Nov. 23 at NM State
Nov. 30 Rice*
Home games in Bold
*Conference USA game
The Miners will play six home games, something that Athletic Director Jim Senter fulfilled in his early promises, including regional matchups against NMSU, Texas Tech and Nevada.
“We have three teams from the state of Texas coming to play in our stadium, which is always exciting,” Dimel said. “Also, we have three teams in our division coming here plus a Mountain West Conference opponent in Nevada, which I’m sure will thrill our fans.”
Here are my five way-too-early takeaways for the 2019 schedule:
1. Texas Tech reemphasizes the importance of marquee regional games
Here's a huge way for the Miners to open up their non-conference road schedule, in Lubbock during the second week of the season. The Red Raiders will be with first-year head coach Matt Wells, who will have to juggle a roster overhaul and coaching turnover.
Texas Tech won the last meeting 69-20 in Lubbock, when Patrick Mahomes was the gunslinger for the Red Raiders and threw for 361 yards, while Aaron Jones led both teams on the ground with 139 rushing yards. This will mark the 24th time Texas Tech and UTEP meet up.
The Red Raiders will return the favor and come to the Sun Bowl in 2020, in part of a home-and-home, which is set for Sept. 5.
As a football fan, you have to love that this new regime wants to reconnect with Texas Tech and make it a significant regional game for the Miners.
2. Nevada vs. UTEP renews old WAC matchup
Nevada coming to the Sun Bowl on Sept. 21 headlines UTEP's home slate. The matchup, which is also set to be a home-and-home game, will mark the first time that the two teams face each other since 2001.
Both teams fared in the WAC together from 2000-02, where they faced each other three times as conference affiliates.
The Wolfpack enters the 2019 season after an 8-5 finish in 2018, where they capped their season off with a 16-13 win over Arkansas State in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
Here's yet another example of good scheduling by the football staff that should make for an entertaining matchup.
3. Miners will take on five bowl teams from 2018
Including Nevada, the Miners will take on five total programs that made it to a bowl game in 2018, including C-USA matchups against FIU (Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl), LA Tech (SoFi Hawai’I Bowl), North Texas (New Mexico Bowl) and UAB (Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl).
Four of those teams (Nevada, FIU, LA Tech, UAB) won their respective bowl game.
That list also doesn't include Texas Tech, who missed the 2018 bowl season after a 5-7 finish, and NMSU, who has beaten UTEP in back-to-back outings.
Now that leaves it up to UTEP to rise up to the ranks of these programs, or be left in the dust when they square off against them.
4. Home schedule is a lot more favorable than years past
The narrative of UTEP's schedule last season was the fact that the Miners had a tough, tough C-USA home schedule. This season, though, the Miners play a more favorable home schedule than last year, which could lead to their first home win since 2016.
Yup, that's right, the Miners have lost 11 straight home games dating back to Nov. 26, 2016, where they beat North Texas in Aaron Jones' last game of his UTEP career.
UTEP will get its first chance at winning a home game against the likes of Houston Baptist to start off the season on Aug. 31. It's the first time that UTEP plays an August game since 2014. Houston Baptist, who is an FCS affiliate program, finished 1-11 last season.
While home games against Nevada and LA Tech might not be as favorable for the Miners, they will get opportunities to win against younger programs like UTSA, Charlotte and Rice.
Their away schedule, on the other hand, is pretty tough. Their non-conference game against Texas Tech could get ugly, along with C-USA matchups against Southern Miss, FIU, North Texas and UAB -- who are each conference title contenders.
A sneaky road game against NMSU on Thanksgiving weekend will be a treat. It will allow more flavor for the Battle of I-10 and could have some heavy stakes riding on the game for the winner. This will also mark the 97th matchup of the Battle of I-10 and marks the first time they square off in the month of November since the 1960’s.
5. How many wins? Way too soon to tell
As well as I argued that their home schedule favors the Miners, the argument that this schedule is actually harder than last year because of their road schedule is totally valid. Looking at their home schedule, there are some "maybe's" in terms of wins, but no guarantees.
They should beat Houston Baptist; they should beat at least one of their Texas counterparts at home (UTSA or Rice); they should beat a struggling Charlotte program; and, they should beat NMSU on the road.
But I said it last year: the Miners should've beaten teams like Northern Arizona, NMSU, UTSA and Western Kentucky, to which they didn't.
For now, we must evaluate their recruiting class, which will be announced in February. Then, we will check out how they look in spring ball with new graduate and JUCO transfers on their roster.
You may think optimistically and give the Miners 6-7 wins. Or, you can still be skeptical of this regime and think 1-2 wins. Realistically, they should win somewhere between 3-5 games. But it's way too early to make these predictions without seeing the team.