North Texas (3-6) at Texas-El Paso (5-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 15, 10 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Bowl Stadium (51,500) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: FS1. Home Record: UNT 3-2, UTEP 3-1. Away Record: UNT 0-4, UTEP 2-3. Neutral Record: UNT 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Conference Record: UNT 1-4, UTEP 3-2. Series Record: North Texas leads, 14-5-3.
GAME NOTES: The North Texas Mean Green not only try to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, they are also aiming for their first road victory as they clash with the UTEP Miners in Conference USA action at Sun Bowl Stadium on Saturday night.
With just a single conference win in five tries, the Mean Green find themselves in the bottom half of the West Division standings of Conference USA entering the week. However, the team did managed to snap a four-game slide on Nov. 8 with a 31-10 victory over Florida Atlantic at home, which is certainly a step in the right direction for a squad that played in and won a New Year's Day bowl game last season.
As for the Miners, who need just one more victory to become bowl eligible, they saw their three-game win streak come to an end last weekend as they bowed to Western Kentucky on the road, 35-27. The program is 3-2 in conference play as a result, just ahead of UNT in the West Division. The better news for UTEP is that the squad has lost just one of four home dates to this point in the campaign.
In terms of the all-time series between the programs, the Mean Green show a 14-5-3 advantage and currently enjoy a seven-game win streak in a relationship that dates back to 1966. UNT posted a 41-7 victory at home last season, which means the Miners have not come out on top since claiming a 61-15 blowout at home way back in 1965.
Quarterback Andrew McNulty converted all but four of his 16 pass attempts to friendly faces, resulting in 107 yards and a score as the Mean Green put up a convincing home win on Saturday. McNulty also ran for a touchdown, one of three scores on the ground for UNT, while the defense for the Mean Green held the visitors to a mere 197 yards of total offense.
Antoinne Jimmerson, who kicked off the game's scoring with a 41-yard TD run, finished with a game-high 111 yards on 17 attempts, while Reggie Pegram carried the ball 24 times for another 89 yards.
North Texas defenders came up with five sacks and nine tackles for loss, as Chad Polk recorded three TFL by himself on just four total stops. Polk now leads the unit with both 7.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks over the course of his nine appearances.
As for the UNT player who has made the most hits overall, no one comes close to Derek Akunne who has 83 stops overall, of which his 53 solo tackles would still be more than his closest teammate (James Jones, 47) has total. Akunne is also responsible for two of the squad's six forced fumbles.
On the offensive side of the ball, McNulty has played in seven games and is the latest quarterback to take over a passing attack that is rather lacking. The team has tossed just 10 touchdowns, the same number of interceptions, and is averaging a meager 175.6 ypg which places them 109th in the nation. However, Carlos Harris is still having an outstanding campaign with his 51 catches for 664 yards and three scores, while Marcus Smith has landed in the end zone on four of his nine receptions.
Jimmerson and Pegram have each carried the ball just over 100 times and have combined for more than 800 yards and nine TDs, but as good as the duo has been, this team needs to make more of a statement through the air.
Similar to the Mean Green, the Miners are also a team that focuses more on running the ball than they do taking shots at an opponent's secondary. In the game against Western Kentucky, UTEP quarterback Jameill Showers converted a total of just nine passes for 158 yards and was picked off once. Were it not for a 69-yard connection with Ian Hamilton, the numbers would have been even more dismal for Showers.
Josh Bell and Nathan Jeffery both tallied scoring runs for the UTEP offense, but while the WKU defense scored on an interception return for a TD in the fourth quarter, the Miners were unable to cause even one turnover in the meeting.
Oddly enough, UTEP enters the week ranked 13th in the nation in turnover margin with plus-0.89. Another strength for the Miners is their ability to slow down opponents on third down, allowing those foes to convert just 32.4 percent of the time, which ranks them 15th in the country at the moment. Should those opponents choose to challenge the Miners on fourth down, there is just a 28.6 percent success rate.
As well as the defense has stood up at times this season, the fact remains that the UTEP offense is sorely lacking in the passing department. Showers might be a solid performer, but the fact that the team is putting up a mere 147.8 ypg through the air (117th) means there is even more pressure being put on the likes of running back Aaron Jones, who paces the group with 886 yards and eight touchdowns on 165 carries. The rest of the team is credited with 197 rushing attempts, resulting in just nine collective TDs.
Even though Showers hasn't been a model of consistency and production in the passing department this season, he still manages a game well enough to take down a visitor such as North Texas.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 31, North Texas 24
11/12 10:41:33 ET