Texas unveiled a new offense, a new quarterback rotation and a new sense of confidence in the opening week of the season against Notre Dame. The overtime victory is being treated as a breakthrough for the team, which hasn’t put together a satisfying season since Colt McCoy was still in school.
Reality sets back in this week with UTEP coming to Austin. UT should drill the Miners, but a game against a cupcake will give observers a chance to get an even closer look at the Baylor-infused offensive scheme and possibly assess the squad’s depth.
Ultimately, the key takeaways from this game will likely come from how both teams look during the game, rather than the final score.
UTEP at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Longhorn Network
Spread: Texas -28.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Irish Hangover
The postgame celebration late Sunday night showed just how hungry the Longhorns were for some signs of life from the football program after staggering and stumbling for the better part of a decade. In the short run, those kinds of wins often lead to lethargic efforts in the next week. It would take lethargy bordering on somnolence for UT to lose this game, but a sharp performance would be a nice statement about the team’s state of mind.
2. Keeping Up With Jones
The Miners lost tailback Aaron Jones for the season in the second game of 2015. The injury severely hampered UTEP’s running game, as the Miners averaged 3.96 yards per carry (94th nationally). Jones made a triumphant return in UTEP’s season-opening win over New Mexico State, gashing the Aggies for 249 yards on 31 carries. He’ll present a stiff test for Texas’ run defense.
3. Texas’ Vertical Passing Game
The ‘Horns had showed no hesitancy to go deep against Notre Dame, repeatedly victimizing the Irish secondary for big chunks of yardage throughout the game. Last season, UTEP’s secondary allowed nearly nine yards per passing attempt, one of the worst marks in the country. It’s hard to see UT not having a lot of success through the air against the Miners.
On paper, this has all the makings of a blowout. Coming off a short week and a huge win, however, an A-plus effort from Texas seems unlikely.
UTEP has just enough weapons on offense to test Texas defensively. UT surrendered 47 points and nearly 450 yards last week to an Irish offense that was bogged down playing two quarterbacks in the first half of the game, which suggests the D still has a ways to go if the ‘Horns plan to contend for a Big 12 title.
That should keep the Miners in the game for a quarter or so before Texas busts out. The second half will offer Charlie Strong and his staff a chance to get the backups some action as the ‘Horns cruise to a comfortable win.
Prediction: Texas 44, UTEP 21
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.