Utah State Aggies (9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS) vs. UTEP Miners (7-5 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Date and Time: Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 2:20PM EST
Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USU -10.5/UTEP +10.5
Over/Under Total: 49
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On Saturday in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, the Utah State Aggies will take on the UTEP Miners. Utah State, with a 9-win season, is better than a 10-point favorite, with the Miners coming off a 7-5 season where they covered 9 out of 12 spreads. In their last game, UTEP beat Middle Tennessee 24-21 on November 29. Utah State last played on the same day, dropping a 50-19 result at Boise. The loss broke a 5-game winning streak.
Utah State has experienced a strange 2014 season. They opened the season getting battered on the road against Tennessee. After winning two straight, they dropped an overtime road game to Arkansas State. Another road loss to Colorado State followed a few weeks later And there was that lopsided loss at Boise in their last game. Other than that, Utah State has been successful, with a slew of nice wins. They beat then-ranked BYU on the road by 15, while also beating another 9-win team in Air Force. They had the tougher schedule playing in the Mountain West, with UTEP in Conference USA.
UTEP is looking for their first bowl win since the Lyndon Johnson administration. They last appeared in a bowl in 2010, losing to another Utah-based team in BYU, 52-24. They enter this game having won 5 of their last 7 games after starting the season 2-3. In essence, theyre a mid-level Conference USA team, which isnt really saying a lot. Against the cream of the Conference USA this season, they were crushed both times against Louisiana Tech and Rice. But they were dependable in taking care of business against the ample conference fodder that they faced this season. But Utah State is a big jump up in class and other than Kansas State, who they lost to by 30, the best team UTEP has faced this season.
UTEP is pretty adept at running the ball, averaging 215 yards on the ground per game. RB Aaron Jones is at 1233 yards and 11 touchdowns, with Nathan Jeffery a nice complimentary piece. Even QB Jameill Showers gets in on it, with 4 TD runs on the season. His passing stats are a bit deflated with only 12 TD throws on the season, though they have a decent vertical threat in Ian Hamilton. UTEP is pretty stout against the pass, ranked 34th in the country. But theyre not as tough against the run, which is more Utah States forte.
Utah State has been 3-deep at quarterback with true freshman Kent Myers, who has started the last 5 games. First, Chuckie Keeton went down, then backup Darrell Garretson went down with a wrist injury. He could be back in time for Saturday, but that is iffy and after being out for so long, one has to wonder how effective he would be. In 5 starts, Myers hasnt cracked 200 yards passing, but hes only thrown two interceptions and has been very adept at times with his legs. Hes raw, but talented and should be as asset in this game or at least not foul things up too badly.
Myers has made it work, but only when facing bottom-end teams. Its hard to call him to task, with his only loss as a starter being against a good Boise State team. But things could be tougher against a winning UTEP team that has some good momentum heading into this game. The Miners will need to run the ball and their success in that area will play a big part on how this game goes. But while Utah State got beat up on the ground against Boise State, UTEPs ground game is not nearly as tough. If Utah States defense can mute the UTEP ground game, it could be a tough spot for the Miners. Jameill Showers is a capable guy, but when forced to do most of the heavy lifting, this team usually comes up short.
Myers is not a guy who can be depended on to break out with a huge game, having not surpassed 186 yards and that coming against lowly Hawaii. If the Utah State run game falls flat, this could be a close game. And the one thing that UTEP has going for them is that they have the memory of playing on this very field and having success. In the season-opener, UTEP beat New Mexico, 31-24, with Showers playing a clean, efficient game. Running back Aaron Jones could benefit from having run wild here already, with 237 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Nathan Jeffery added 84 yards on the ground. Utah State also beat the Lobos by 7 points this season, but that game was at home.
UTEP actually has a pretty decent chance to do something they havent done in nearly a half-century and thats to win a bowl game. Utah State may be a small cut above, but theyre not invulnerable and downright beatable for a 9-win team. UTEP may come up short and even if they do, I see them covering the spread.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the UTEP Miners plus 10.5 points.