North Texas vs. UTEP Betting Odds, Predictions: Our Top Pick for Saturday’s Week 0 Showdown (Saturday, August 27)
Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Gavin Hardison.
North Texas vs. UTEP Odds
|North Texas Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas, will be the site of a Week 0 matchup between two Conference USA opponents looking to replace big weapons on offense as North Texas travels to face UTEP.
This is the first time since 2011 that North Texas has opened with a conference opponent, while UTEP looks to continue a streak of three season-opening victories alive Saturday night.
Both offenses will have a plethora of questions to answer against defensive units that have to love the matchups they’ll face to kick off the season.
North Texas comes into 2022 on fire from a results perspective, winning its final five games, including an upset of undefeated No. 15 UTSA.
In order to continue this win streak, head coach Seth Littrell must improve an offense that ranked 76th nationally in scoring. This task will be extremely difficult with the departure of running back DeAndre Torrey to the Philadelphia Eagles.
With Torrey gone, the Mean Green lose 1,255 yards on the ground and 13 total touchdowns.
Although North Texas returns 106 career stars on the offensive line, which will be a strong suit of its offense, the absence of Torrey will be felt early and often in Week 0.
Torrey’s big play ability was a crutch for a Mean Green offense that struggled to find the end zone on a consistent basis.
"𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘤𝘢𝘯'𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘷𝘦 what DeAndre Torrey just did."
— North Texas Football (@MeanGreenFB) November 28, 2021
This loss is compounded by Littrell’s affinity for the rushing attack. Last year, North Texas ranked fifth nationally in rushing, totaling 233.5 yards per game on 639 attempts. Littrell and North Texas are used to beating teams through their slow and methodical run game, which resulted in a rank of 61st nationally in time of possession and seventh in seconds per play.
After a quarterback battle for much of the spring, North Texas will begin Week 0 with returning starter Austin Aune under center. Although this is Aune’s fifth year in the program, there’s much to improve.
Aune posted a QBR of 44.5 last season, good for 91st nationally. He will need to make major leaps in 2022 for this offense to find the end zone consistently without the big plays on the ground.
The North Texas 2-deep for Saturday’s game at UTEP. A few “ORs” on the list including at all 3 WR spots, and at running back. pic.twitter.com/U4e69hYpXE
— Colin Deaver (@ColinDeaverTV) August 22, 2022
The storyline for the Mean Green defense and second-year defensive coordinator Phil Bennett starts with superstar linebacker KD Davis. In 2021, Davis amassed 121 total tackles, including 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
His presence, along with a TARP rating of 69%, gives North Texas a lot to be excited about on defense. During its five-game winning streak to end the season, North Texas held opponents to an average of 17 points per contest.
The Mean Green return four of their top seven tacklers from a year ago. If North Texas can continue the success it had to end last season, it will be the result of stout defensive play, along with an offense that can slowly chip away at opponents on the ground.
This success on the ground will be especially difficult to find against a UTEP defense that returns eight of its top 11 tacklers, including its entire front six.
Look for North Texas to struggle to establish the run throughout this matchup with a familiar conference opponent.
While North Texas loses big-play ability on the ground, UTEP loses it through the air. After amassing 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns on 69 catches, wide receiver Jacob Cowing transferred to Arizona.
Cowing was a much-needed big-play threat on an offense that ranked 89th in scoring last season. Although UTEP’s No. 2 receiver, Justin Garrett, also departs, quarterback Gavin Hardison will continue to attack through the air with an offense that racked up 65.5 plays per game while ranking 114th nationally in seconds per play in 2021.
This offense may take some time to find its identity as it looks to replace key production at its most heavily-used position.
On the defensive side of the ball, head coach Dana Dimel and first-year defensive coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto are excited about the experience and depth they have in the two-deep, particularly up front.
The Miners return defensive ends Jadrian Taylor and Praise Amaewhule, who were a nightmare for offensive lines in 2021 with 12 total sacks combined.
UTEP also returns three of its top four linebackers, including leading tackler and second-team All-Conference USA linebacker Breon Hayward who led the Miners with 108 total tackles last season.
This is a defensive unit that ranked 39th nationally in opponent rushing yards per game, giving up an average of 141.4. In addition, Dimel has not shied away from the preparation UTEP is doing defensively for North Texas.
Dimel and his staff have told the media they have been preparing for the Mean Green for as long as 22 days before kickoff.
UTEP's Dana Dimel said that the Miners are off tomorrow, practice normally on Thursday, then have a walk-through with a lot of North Texas game plan items on Friday, followed by a "mock game" on Saturday. Miners locking in on their 2-deep now.
More from UTEP at 6/10 on KTSM. pic.twitter.com/sE3jcyrTp6
— Colin Deaver (@ColinDeaverTV) August 16, 2022
This defensive philosophy led to success for the Miners in last year’s matchup. They held North Texas to 183 total yards on the ground, well below its season average.
Littrell and North Texas will not shy away from attempting to establish a rushing attack, which UTEP will welcome with open arms.
North Texas vs. UTEP Betting Pick
Both North Texas and UTEP come into this matchup liking where they’re at defensively while looking to find new stars on offense.
In a matchup where the stars play on the defensive side of the ball, this total is simply too high. Last year’s matchup saw this defensive advantage play out in a 20-17 victory for North Texas.
North Texas and UTEP had a third-down Success Rate of 35% and 31%, respectively, in last year’s matchup, which is a trend that’s likely to continue with both teams looking to find go-to guys on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensive star power, offensive question marks, and North Texas’ methodical play style give this under plenty of value.
The market has bet this number down from 56 to 54.5 at the time of writing. I project value down to the key number of 52.