The UTEP football team began their regular season like many people predicted: a 56-7 loss at Oklahoma. The good news is Sean Kugler's team is relatively healthy as they prepare to host Rice Saturday night in the home opener. It is a good thing for the Miners, since their first conference game is as big as any contest they have had in recent years.

UTEP must prove to themselves and their fans that the 2017 team can win games that matter, especially at home. Rice lost its season opener 62-7 to Stanford, but the Owls are just 1.5-point underdogs at the Sun Bowl. They embarrassed the Miners last November 44-24 in a game that was never close. UTEP is out for revenge Saturday night, and senior offensive linemen Will Hernandez and Derek Elmendorff both believe that this year's team will be special.

If the Miners play on Saturday night like they did during last season's final game against North Texas, a lot of fans will be back on the bandwagon. A win over Pac-12 Arizona next Friday night will also give us a good indication if UTEP can be bowl bound.