Date: Saturday, October 20, 2018
Kickoff Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium
Series Record: La Tech leads 11-2-1
Last Meeting: La Tech won 42-21 in 2017
Betting Line: La Tech -24
UTEP comes in at 0-6 and in desperate need of a win, but they are also fresh off their bye week. New coach Dana Dimel may have been able to install some new looks, but it would still be the biggest upset of the year in C-USA if they could pull this off.
With that said, UTEP has had its chances. The Miners’ most recent game came against North Texas, whom they lost to by a mere three points. UTEP also led for much of the second quarter in that game.
As for the Bulldogs, they bounced back very nicely after the disappointing performance against UAB. The outcome was never in question against UTSA.
Louisiana Tech Overview
Despite the Bulldogs’ loss to UAB, La Tech is still in the division title race if North Texas defeats the Blazers this weekend. That only matters if they handle business against UTEP.
Tech has to be careful not to let this game trap them. The temptation to look ahead is there with the next two games being road tilts with FAU and Mississippi State. After the UAB loss, perhaps they’ve learned their lesson.
J’Mar Smith had one of his better games last week, throwing for over 300 yards. Smith has shown he can make plays, he just has to do that each week and be more consistent. Another 10/24 performance like he had against UAB could spell disaster.
The rushing offense had one of its least productive games of the year in San Antonio, but as long as everyone is healthy, it should be fine this week. UTEP allows an average of over 200 rushing yards per game, so Jaqwis Dancy and company should be able to handle the UTEP defense. Tech rushed for over 300 yards in El Paso last year. They probably won’t repeat that, but it should be a good day for them nonetheless.
As for the defense, Tech’s defense continues to be a big part of the team’s success. The Dawgs held UTSA to just three points last week. One area where they have struggled, however, is containing a mobile quarterback, and Kai Locksley leads UTEP in rushing yards. They’ll need to find a way to contain him when he’s on the field. Dimel also indicated that UTEP will play both Locksley and Ryan Metz, so there will be pressure on the Tech defense to be ready for both.
La Tech is clearly the better team, but they can’t take UTEP lightly. The Miners, despite their record, can make some plays. They’ve also had two weeks to prepare. Tech has to take this opponent seriously if they want to handle business on homecoming.
As mentioned above, UTEP plans on playing both quarterbacks. Locksley leads the team in rushing, making him a true dual threat. Metz’s rushing numbers are nothing to write about, but against UNT he threw for over 300 yards. That’s the first time a UTEP quarterback has done that since 2013. With two weeks to prepare, they could find a good balance of the two players to really put pressure on the Tech defense.
UTEP is known for its running backs, and Quardraiz Wadley is no exception. With over 350 yards and three touchdowns, he can go off if the defense focuses too much on the quarterback.
The wide receiver corps is interesting. Warren Redix is the clear favored target with 20 catches for 244 yards, while no other receiver has more than nine receptions. However, he has yet to score a touchdown, while four others have. Defenses have to account for Redix, but if they focus on him too much, another can burn them.
Defensively, UTEP has done well against the pass, but they need to shore up the run defense. Allowing over 200 yards per game isn’t good. Tech has a healthy rotation of backs, including not just Dancy, but also Israel Tucker and Kam McKnight. UTEP is going to have to contain them if they want to have a chance.
UTEP is an interesting case. They are 0-6, but they’ve had their chances to win the past three games. Against New Mexico State and UTSA is one thing, but they had the ball in the closing minutes against UNT down just three. Since then, they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this trip to Ruston.
With that said, the game against UNT was in El Paso, and North Texas was coming off a heartbreaking loss. Tech gets to play UTEP at home, and they have film on what UTEP did to UNT. The Miners may be able to score a couple of times, but that probably won’t be enough.
UTEP is the only west division team La Tech hasn’t lost to since joining C-USA in 2013, and unless the Bulldogs have a really bad day on offense again, it will probably stay that way.