FACTS & STATS: Site: Apogee Stadium (30,850) -- Denton, Texas. Television: CSS. Home Record: UTEP 0-4, UNT 4-0. Away Record: UTEP 1-3, UNT 2-3. Neutral Record: UTEP 0-0, UNT 0-0. Conference Record: UTEP 0-4, UNT 4-1. Series Record: North Texas leads, 13-5-3.
GAME NOTES: Lone Star State foes get together in Denton this weekend, as the North Texas Mean Green entertain the Miners of Texas-El Paso in a Conference- USA showdown.
North Texas, which enters the week tied with Tulane for second place in the West Division of C-USA, last played on Halloween night and used the meeting against Rice to post not just a 28-16 victory, but also to become bowl eligible for the first time in nearly a decade. Now 4-1 in conference play, UNT is riding a four-game win streak.
The Miners haven't been nearly as lucky or good in 2013, dealing with a record of just 1-7 and a spot in last place in the division standings at 0-4. The lone victory for UTEP was a 42-21 rout of New Mexico State in the second game of the season, but even that has to be questioned given that NMSU has just two wins the last two seasons and hasn't beaten another FBS program since 2011.
UTEP's latest outing came against nationally-ranked Texas A&M last weekend, and for the second week in a row the Miners scored just a single touchdown as they were beaten by 50 points on the road.
As far as the all-time series between these two teams is concerned, the Mean Green own a 13-5-3 advantage, winning six consecutive matchups, although the most recent of those was a 35-15 final back in 1980.
The Miners looked awful in trying to slow down Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in College Station last weekend, permitting the reigning Heisman Trophy winner to throw for four touchdowns and run for two more during the lopsided effort. Even though the Aggies ran only 60 plays, one less than UTEP, they still managed to generate a hefty 564 yards of offense, compared to only 198 yards for the Miners.
Quarterback Blaire Sullivan, who has taken over for an injured Jameill Showers, completed just nine passes for 71 yards, suffering two sacks and tossing three interceptions along the way. The signal caller was second on the unit in rushing with 40 yards on 11 carries, while Aaron Jones posted 62 yards and a score on 22 attempts as he set a new school record for freshman rushing (805 yards), a mark that had stood for nearly three decades.
Jones, who is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, is currently tied with Showers for the team lead with four rushing touchdowns.
The Miners have been a solid running team for much of the season and are currently ranked 32nd in the country with 200.5 ypg, but with only 12 TDs on the ground there is certainly something missing at the end of the line.
Unfortunately, it has been a weak defense that has put the Miners in a bad position more often than not this year, the squad permitting 479.8 ypg to rank 115th in the nation. On the ground, opponents have been logging 247.6 ypg (119th) and have scored 26 TDs without much resistance.
The Mean Green would be smart to begin their assault this weekend by keeping the ball on the ground, seeing as how they've already scored 20 TDs, yet average only 156.6 ypg and 3.7 yards per attempt. Another problem for North Texas could be the availability of Reggie Pegram (338 yards, six touchdowns) who is listed as questionable with a knee injury.
Even though he has almost as many picks (11) as passing TDs (12), quarterback Derek Thompson has done well to keep the North Texas offense moving with his 67.0 percent accuracy. Darnell Smith might have the most receptions (46) for 518 yards and three TDs, but it is Brelan Chancellor (39 catches) who has been slightly more productive on the back end with 642 yards and four scores.
One key element in the Mean Green's success has been in the turnover department where the squad has a plus-1.0 advantage per game to tie for eighth in the country, thanks to 13 interceptions and 15 recovered fumbles.
The Miners figure to be a bit more competitive this week, after being blown away by Texas A&M, but don't confuse that with having a realistic chance at scoring a win versus a North Texas team that is on a roll.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Texas 41, Texas-El Paso 20
Saturday, November 9, 3:30 p.m. (et).