Start Time: 12:00 PM EST, Saturday, November 14
Location: Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, Virginia
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Records: Old Dominion: 4-5. UTEP: 4-5. UTEP leads the overall series 1-0.
Live Stats: here.
Line: Old Dominion -6.5. Over/Under: 56.5
Old Dominion Outlook: With a hard fought win over UTSA last week, the Monarchs are within reach of a 6-6 season and a possible bowl trip.
Offensively, the Monarchs have been all about the running game with Ray Lawry rushing for 1,069 yards and 10 touchdowns so far. Outside of Lawry, the run game is non-existent. Freshmen Jeremy Cox and Kesean Strong have gotten a combined 59 carries, a pale comparision to Lawry's 185 carries. Unless Lawry is carrying the football, there is no reason to be worried about the run game. Overall, the Monarchs rush for 4.7 yards per carry and 168.6 yards per game as a team.
Old Dominion has used both Shuler Bentley and David Washington at quarterback in 2015. Of the two, Washington has been more effective, but much of his play has been versus less than stellar competition. Bentley is the quarterback of the future, though Washington may be the quarterback of the present. Zach Pascal is the team's leading receiver with 44 catches for over 600 yards. His 28.3% target rate is one of the highest for a single receiver and may be a symptom of a bigger problem in the passing game. Unless either Shuler or Washington can spread the ball around a bit more, good defenses will take advantage. It is a good thing that they are not running into a good defense this week.
It has been a tough year on defense for Old Dominion. They have given up 4.6 yards per carry for 204 yards per game, while giving up 230.6 yards per game in the air. Their biggest weakness is in the trenches, where good teams can take advantage and have their way at the line of scrimmage.Overall, the Monarchs are giving up 434.6 yards per game of total offense.
Players to watch on the Old Dominion defense include: TJ Ricks, Oshane Ximines, and Martez Simpson.
UTEP Outlook: It has been a tough 2015 season for the Miners, but a win here would put them in great position for bowl eligibility.
Since the loss of Aaron Jones to injury in week two, the Miners have been forced to pass the ball much more often. With Mack Leftwich at the helm, the passing game is not dynamic, but steady enough to get the job done. Leftwich has shown a fondness for tight end Hayden Plinke and wide receiver Jaquan White. The duo has combined for 65 catches, 764 yards, and five touchdowns on the year, while being targeted on 38% of all pass plays. Autrey Golden and Tyler Batson have gotten more involved in the passing game, but neither sport a catch rate over 57%.
It took a while, but Jeremiah Laufasa and LaQuintus Dowell have finally been able to give UTEP the semblance of a running game. Neither is setting Conference USA on fire with their play, but have been able to force defenses to play honest. The run game is still a very long way from the 2015 season with a 3.8 yards per carry and 138.1 yards per game this season.
Steadily, the Miners have gotten better and better on defense. Even so, the defense is still the worst in the nation in defensive IsoPPP at 1.63. That means that when successful, offenses are extremely explosive versus the Miners. Despite the improved statistics of recent weeks, the rush defense is still giving up 5.1 yards per carry and nearly 175 yards on the ground per game. It has also been a struggle to stop the passing game with an allowed 291.7 yards per game in the air.
Players to look out for on the UTEP defense include: Alvin Jones, Nick Usher, and Roy Robertson-Harris.
Prediction: This game could literally go in either direction and I would not be surprised. For no outstanding reason, I think UTEP gets it done in a sloppy game. UTEP 24, Old Dominion 17.