Texas-El Paso (0-1) at New Mexico State (0-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 8 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Aggie Memorial Stadium (30,343) -- Las Cruces, New Mexico. Television: None. Home Record: UTEP 0-1, NMSU 0-1. Away Record: UTEP 0-0, NMSU 0-1. Neutral Record: UTEP 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Conference Record: UTEP 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Series Record: Texas-El Paso leads, 53-35-2.
GAME NOTES: The 91st installment of the Battle I-10 rivalry takes center stage in Las Cruces on Saturday evening, as the New Mexico State Aggies entertain the Miners of Texas-El Paso.
The Miners are facing an opponent from the Land of Enchantment for the second time in as many weeks, following a 42-35 overtime loss to New Mexico in the season opener on Sept. 7 at home. This weekend's matchup marks the first of seven road dates for UTEP in 2013, the first time the program has spent that much time away from home since 2002.
As for the Aggies, a team which is operating as an Independent this season after spending a number of years in the Western Athletic Conference, they have bowed in two straight out of the gate for new head coach Doug Martin. In the season opener, NMSU was thumped by Texas in Austin, 56-7, marking the fifth time in as many meetings that the Aggies have come up short in that relationship.
Last weekend, New Mexico State played at home for the first time and was taken out by Minnesota, 44-21, which means the program has now dropped 13 consecutive outings since opening 2012 with a 49-19 romp over Sacramento State.
The Miners own a 53-35-2 advantage in the all-time series with the Aggies, winning four straight meetings thanks to a 41-28 triumph last season. The last win for NMSU in the series was a narrow 34-33 final in the Sun Bowl back in 2008.
UTEP was able to get the meeting against New Mexico into overtime last week, but the Lobos scored a touchdown on their first possession of the extra frame and then held the Miners in check on fourth down by mere inches. Running back Aaron Jones gave the Miners a fighting chance as he gained 127 yards and scored twice, but the passing attack just wasn't good enough. Jameill Showers converted 15-of-20 passes for 119 yards and a score and was sacked once as UTEP logged 399 yards of total offense.
The biggest problem for the Miners was trying to slow down Kasey Carrier who ran for 291 yards (the most in the FBS this season) and landed in the end zone four times. Overall, the New Mexico rushing attack accounted for 395 yards and six TDs, a combination that few opponents can combat these days.
Last season, the Miners had some problems slowing down opposing runners as well, giving up 194.2 ypg which was ninth-most in Conference USA and 97th nationally. Still with plenty of room for improvement, UTEP gave up a hefty 440.2 ypg in total a year ago.
Showers certainly has some development ahead of him, but considering the fact that he was once on the Texas A&M roster, he has to have the qualities needed to carry a college football program.
As for the Aggies, there are times when they seem like they just can't get out of their own way. By halftime of their meeting against Minnesota at home, the Aggies found themselves in a 27-7 hole and were never able to climb out.
The quarterback combination of Andrew McDonald and King Davis III converted 29-of-40 passes for 253 yards, but getting the ball into the end zone through the air just wasn't in the cards. Running back Germi Morrison carried the ball 19 times and crossed the goal line twice, yet he gained a total of only 32 net yards, which was still tops on the team surprisingly.
Part of the problem with the offense for the Aggies this season will be dealing with the loss of receiver Austin Franklin. Second in the WAC and eighth in the nation with 103.8 ypg receiving a year ago, Franklin's poor academic efforts left him off the roster and that means Joshua Bowen is now the unit's best option with 14 catches for 121 yards in two games, although Joseph Matthews is no slouch with seven grabs for 105 yards.
But even if Franklin was available, would he be enough of a threat to offset a defensive effort that, after two games has given up a total of 100 points? Last year, NMSU was 117th in the country when it came to scoring defense, allowing a hefty 39.4 ppg. If not for the opener in which the Aggies gave up just 19 points to Sacramento State, the numbers would have been much worse.
More bad news for NMSU has the team recording just a single sack and five tackles for loss through the first two outings of 2012, not exactly efforts that would scare an offense like that of the Miners.
Even though rivalry games tend to take on a life of their own, in this case the Aggies are still an underdog playing at home and it would take more than a few breaks for NMSU to come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 41, New Mexico State 27
09/11 10:32:23 ET