Arizona Wildcats (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) vs. UTEP Miners (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS)
College Football Week 3
Date/Time: Friday, September 15, 2017 at 10:15PM EST
Where: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ARIZ -20/UTEP +20
Over/Under Total: 60.5
The Arizona Wildcats come to the Sun Bowl for a Friday night matchup against the UTEP Miners in week three action. UTEP has not fared well this season, losing their first two games. On Saturday, a 31-14 loss to Rice at home underscored the issues they continue to face, including a pedestrian offense and a defense that doesnt do much to help the cause. They are again at home, but even against a lower-end Pac-12 school like Arizona, they appear to be up against it in a major way. Arizona looks for amends after suffering a tough loss on Saturday to Houston, 19-16. The defeat evened their record at 1-1, following a week one win over Northern Arizona.
Things got off to a rocky start for UTEP this season with a week one loss at Oklahoma, 56-7. Thats a tough way for a team like UTEP to start the season, a Conference USA doormat just trying to get things on the right track. You wonder why teams like UTEP would schedule games like that. It didnt seem to help them when the next week, as 1.5-point favorites, they lost by two touchdowns to Rice, a team that lost by 55 points in week one.
Texas-El Paso quarterback Ryan Metz is pretty good or maybe competent is a better way to put it. After taking a hit to the head, he is questionable for this game. They lost a major piece of manpower with all-time team rusher Aaron Jones and if the first two games are any indication, finding a suitable replacement might take more work. Guys like Walter Dawn and Kevin Dove were contained by a Rice defense that isnt going to corral a lot of backs this season.
What really hurts is they lost projected starter RB Quadraiz Wadley, who would have maybe made rushing more of a team asset. UTEP is not a team brimming with talent where they can withstand personnel losses like that. The one thing they have in their corner is an All-American guard in Will Hernandez, but if the rest of the line is up-to-snuff, they havent shown it in the first two weeks. They have returning experience at wide receiver, but the aerial game hasnt really taken flight yet. When it does, look for pass-catchers Warren Redix, Kavika Johnson, David Lucero, and Tyler Batson.
Week one was a tough test for UTEP and its hard to take them to task for allowing a feeding frenzy to a home Oklahoma team that came back the next week and beat 2nd-ranked Ohio State. But to give up over 300 yards on the ground to Rice and never really give the offense a chance to get in the game is a damning indictment. The secondary returns three guys with experience and there is some talent among the middle linebackers with Alvin Jones and Dante Lovilotte. Safety Devin Cockrell and Michael Lewis are dependable in the secondary. But the front is really lacking in talent and thats something thats going to continue to hurt them all season against the run.
Rich Rodriguez Wildcats bunch have a lot of work to do if they want to avoid also-ran status in the Pac-12 this season. They put up 64 points against NAU, but fell flat against Houston, especially in the second half when they failed to get in the end zone. After a 3-9 season in 16, they will need to find the right answers and quickly. There are numerous issues on both sides of the ball and a lack of compelling talent.
Arizona was worst in the conference in scoring last season and nothing so far looks like that will change. Quarterback Brandon Dawkins can run the ball well, but his passing is clearly not on a Pac-12 level. Sophomore running back JJ Taylor is likely the offenses top player. Their only bankable receiver is tiny speedster Shun Brown. The line returns a lot of guys up-front and maybe that will help down the line with more experience, but sometimes a lot of returning players isnt that good of a sign coming off a 3-9 season when moving the ball was a major issue.
Arizonas secondary is actually pretty solid, led by guys like CB Lorenzo Burns, along with experienced corners Jace Whittaker and Dane Cruikshank. Safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles is also an asset, along with Chacho Ulloa. But the line is undersized and really makes you wonder about the recruiting lately with Rich Rodriguez formerly a force in that department. In the middle, Tony Fields, II. and Brandon Rutt round out an unexceptional unit. While not an awful defense, they dont really make a lot of big plays and sometimes are just there taking up space. Getting back to Rodriguez, its hard to remember that he was actually a hot property in the coaching ranks at one time. Then a series of missteps occurred and maybe parents lost their trust with all the bad publicity. Whatever the case, he seems miles away from where he was at West Virginia a decade ago.
Still, Arizona should be able to top what looks to be a really bad UTEP team. Their defense should be made to look a little better against this bunch, while superior talent on offense should surface at some point. Its just unclear how UTEP is going to put up significant points against this defense. Again, its all about context. Arizona probably wont stack up on either side of the ball against the better teams they face. UTEP is not one of those teams. As strange as it might sound on the surface, Im laying the 20 points and taking the Wildcats.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Arizona Wildcats minus 20 points. Bet your pick for this game using your credit card at an online bookie where it WILL work for deposits and where you’ll receive a generous 100% signup bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $250! (Example: Deposit $250 and they’ll give you an extra $250 FREE!) Find this great offer at Bovada Sportsbook.