UTEP vs. NMSU: Three Final Things to Watch for Rivalry Week
The 97th matchup of the Battle of I-10 will kick off in Las Cruces, as the Miners (1-9, 0-7 C-USA) try to snap a nine-game losing streak when they face the Aggies (1-9) at 2 p.m.
Here are three final things to watch for rivalry week:
The ultimate battle of 1-9 squads
When we first mapped this game out at the start of the season, we predicted that both teams could enter this game off struggling seasons. Needless to say, both teams have faced their share of adversity.
UTEP has struggled to find an identity on offense this year and defensively, it's been a roller coaster. The Miners are ranked in the bottom-10 of FBS in total offense (120), scoring offense (120), first down offense (121), team passing efficiency defense (127), third down conversion percentage defense (130) and red zone defense (122).
NMSU joins the Miners on the struggle bus too. They have had one of the more unfavorable schedules you will see in college football, having to play the likes of Washington State, Alabama and Ole Miss, who demolished the Aggies by a combined score of 161-20. They join the Miners in some bottom-barrel categories, such as total defense (120), rushing defense (129), turnover margin (129) and red zone offense (123).
The Aggies have won back-to-back games against the Miners, including their 27-20 win against UTEP last year at the Sun Bowl.
This year? The Silver Spade and Brass Spittoon is up for grabs indeed.
Does UTEP stick with Locksley or plug in Hardison?
Despite sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison's 222 passing yards last week against UAB, I personally think head coach Dana Dimel goes with senior Kai Locksley in this game. Locksley has passed for 871 yards, totals 369 rushing yards and has seven touchdowns on the season. Considering how bad the Aggies have been against the rush this year, maybe UTEP decides to go ground-and-pound with senior tailback Treyvon Hughes (593 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns).
Javahn Fergurson leads the Aggies on defense, as he racked up 77 tackles and ranks fifth-best in FBS for total tackles.
Can the Miners defense look decent again?
It's been weeks since we have seen the UTEP defense put together a solid four quarters on the field. Against an Aggies offense that put up 41 points last week in their win over Incarnate Word, this week might be a struggle for UTEP.
NM State quarterback Josh Adkins is a 2,240 yard passer, with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. On the ground, the Aggies use Jason Huntley (794 rushing yards, six touchdowns) in a balanced system.
Creating turnovers will be key for the Miners if they hope to win this game. The Miners defense will need a big game from their defensive front and a complete turnaround from their struggling secondary.