Date: Saturday, November 15th
Time: 9:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports One
Line: UTEP +6.5
This time last year, #HIT6, the Twitter hashtag that served as motivation for Mean Green players and coaches had already been hit, and UTEP was going to become victim number 7 in what would be a banner year for UNT.
These same coaches and players (minus a few graduates and departing coaches) also used #Hit6 for the 2014 season. The Mean Green just didn't think it would take until the final game to (maybe) hit the goal.
In must-win game 2 of 4, UNT faces an upstart UTEP team who would be bowl-eligible in the second year of the Sean Kugler era if not for a fourth quarter comeback by Western Kentucky. While Jameill Showers has had his bouts with inconsistency this year, he represents a significant upgrade from UTEP's quarterback last year against North Texas, Mack Leftwich.
Not only does North Texas have to game plan against Showers, but the defense also has to worry about the four-headed monster at running back for UTEP, led by Aaron Jones, who missed last week's game against WKU due to injury. Jones has doubled the number of touchdowns he had in 2013, and the sophomore is a sure bet to eclipse 1,000 yards this year (thanks to a 237-yard performance in the opener against New Mexico).
While UTEP loves to run, they are facing a North Texas team in the top 50 nationally in terms of a run defense, which is a hallmark of any Dan McCarney team. Offensively, North Texas will once again turn to Andrew McNulty, who had what we would term as an "efficient" game against FAU, completing 12 of 16 passes, with one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown. While McNulty has the keys to the bus, he's like that fifteen-year-old (yes, in Texas you can get a permit at 15...) who has 17 different parental restrictions on his car. All North Texas fans, players and coaches are thinking the same thing: "Andrew, just please don't screw up".
Not only is UTEP much improved from last year, the Miners are playing at home. where they're 3-1 this year, with the loss a close game against Texas Tech in the second game of the year. Meanwhile, North Texas is 5-18 on the road in the Dan McCarney era. including an 0-4 mark this year.
30,000 UTEP fans are expected to descend upon the Sun Bowl, with North Texas expected to bring a sizable crowd as well. As the teams look to one-up each other's rushing attacks, expect this game to be over quick, as the clock will keep running on both sides of the ball.
I predict UTEP, bolstered by the return of Aaron Jones will jump out to an early lead, forcing UNT to abandon their game plan. Once UTEP establishes the run game, it will allow Jameill Showers to showcase his talents, and UTEP will carry a big lead into halftime. UNT will score late, but I predict UTEP will prevail and be the team to #HIT6, 35-17.