UTEP vs. New Mexico State Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Can Miners Topple Aggies in Opener? (Aug. 28)
Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Gavin Hardison.
- After two games in the spring, the New Mexico State Aggies are back as they take on the UTEP Miners in Week 0 action on Saturday night.
- The Aggies gave up a 70- and 86-yard play in its first game of the season last spring before giving up three touchdowns of 50 yards or more in their next game.
- Collin Wilson breaks down that explosiveness dynamic and more below and shares his betting pick and prediction below.
UTEP vs. New Mexico State Odds
New Mexico State has not played an FBS game in 21 months after opting out of the 2020 season.
The Aggies posted a 1-1 record in spring competition, a 26-point loss as a seven-point favorite to Tarleton State and a one-possession win over Dixie State.
While New Mexico State continues to rebuild after a bowl victory in 2017, UTEP continues an upward trajectory.
Dana Dimel starts his fourth year in El Paso after posting a 3-5 mark last season. More importantly to investors, the Miners were profitable at 5-3 against the spread.
Previously, UTEP had only one winning season against the number since 2012. Outside of New Mexico State, the Miners are scheduled to play Bethune-Cookman and Old Dominion. UTEP’s goal of going to a bowl starts with New Mexico State.
The UTEP position was a complete rebuild when Dimel joined after years in Manhattan as a player and coach at Kansas State.
New offensive coordinator Dave Warner has previous experience working with Dimel at Wyoming and Houston. The defensive side of the ball will also see a change as Bradley Dale Peveto takes over as coordinator after bouncing through multiple SEC programs.
The experience Warner brings to the table includes working with Michigan State quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer and Connor Cook. That is good news for sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison, who returns after a 1,400-yard season. Although the final statistics show a five-touchdown and five- interception season, Hardison had 14 big-time throws against 11 turnover-worthy plays.
Gavin Hardison’s 82 yard pass to Jacob Cowing leads to a Deion Hankins TD run to put @UTEPFB on the board first!
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) September 26, 2020
Both wide receiver Jacob Cowing and running back Deion Hankins return as the most explosive weapons for Hardison. Warner did indicate that he will align with Dimel’s strategy to be a run-first team.
Hankins is expected to get the ball in a number of different ways, but UTEP is expected to still rank as one of the slowest offenses in the nation, finishing 114th in seconds per play.
The UTEP offense may reach new statistical highs in the Dimel era this season.
The Miners finished 40th in Havoc Allowed, led by a rank of 17th in Opponent Sack Rate. The offensive line returns every starter to the two-deep, giving a copious amount of time for Hardison to continue his breakout.
Peveto brings his SEC position and special teams experience to El Paso with a 4-3 scheme.
That goes well with a defensive line that has a number of players who are candidates for All-Conference USA honors. Edge rusher Praise Amaewhule posted seven sacks and an incredible nine pass breakups during the 2020 season.
UTEP has a dude in Praise Amaewhule. Twitchy pass rusher with some long damn arms—wins often with explosiveness and see his rip here. Against Louisiana Tech he had 3.5 sacks and 4 PBUs. pic.twitter.com/ds3ISFHmcl
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) July 8, 2021
Defensive tackle Keenan Stewart kicked in seven tackles for loss last season, making the defensive line the strength of the defense.
Peveto’s biggest challenge is getting production out of the back seven after posting a rank outside the top 100 in Success Rate and 83rd in Finishing Drives.
UTEP will pose plenty of trouble to opposing offensive lines that are rebuilding, but the ability to stop the chains and improve coverage ranks will be the crux of the Miners defense season.
By the time college football fans find FloSports minutes before kickoff, every investor will be aware of what New Mexico State posted against two FCS schools in the spring. The question is whether or not there’s opportunity to fade a market that believes the same team that lost to Tarleton State shows up in Las Cruces on Saturday night.
Doug Martin enters his ninth season as head coach with a contract set to expire in June 2022.
After a 2020 investigation into allegations, Martin was cleared of any misconduct. Martin has publicly expressed disappointment for not getting an extra year on the staff contracts due to the pandemic, a story that may keep the Aggies on the fade side of investments without winning results.
Martin indicated the quarterback battle between Jonah Johnson and Weston Eget will continue through kickoff.
Johnson was the starter for the Tarleton State loss, throwing three interceptions to just one touchdown. An in-game injury to Johnson against Dixie State led to a touchdown drive led by Eget. Johnson finished the game, posting two touchdowns on the ground and none through the air.
Doug Martin wouldn't make a starter… Didn't expect he would. But Jonah Johnson said he believes he's improved a lot since the spring pic.twitter.com/XGIIJh5stB
— Jason Groves (@JPGroves) August 24, 2021
The offensive line will be anchored by Ole Miss transfer Eli Johnson at center and senior Sage Doxtater at left tackle.
Tight end Andre Bodison and wide receiver Terrell Warner represent the only Aggie targets with experience against FBS opponents from 2019.
New Mexico State was destroyed by explosive plays against Tarleton State. The Texans logged a 70-yard touchdown run just a minute into the game.
An 86-yard haul through the air came on the next drive. The explosive plays were not just limited to Tarleton State, as Dixie State accomplished the same in the following game. The Trailblazers notched three touchdowns that exceeded 50 yards both on the ground and through the air.
— Dixie State Football (@DixieState_FB) March 8, 2021
Frank Spaziani enters his sixth season for New Mexico State, but recruiting and transfer portal activity has diminished returns on the defensive side of the ball. There are no returning starters from the 2019 team that faced FBS competition.
Linebackers coach Oliver Soukup mentioned the New Mexico State defense has improved against the run through fall camp but allowed “a couple of big passes.”
UTEP vs. New Mexico State Betting Pick
New Mexico State has done nothing to improve a defense that was detonated by the explosive play in two spring FCS games. The back seven continues to struggle in giving up explosive pass plays through multiple Aggie scrimmages leading up to kickoff.
That is good news for Hardison, who had a positive ratio in big-time throws to turnover-worthy plays. The key for UTEP is the drops, as Hardison saw 10 drops in 144 passing attempts from a clean pocket. The deep ball is certainly there for the quarterback after posting an average depth number north of 12 yards per catch.
The good news for UTEP is the defensive strength resides in the trench. The New Mexico State offensive line is in a rebuild with minimal FBS experience. Whether Johnson or Eget is under center for the Aggies, the Miners will apply max pressure with just a four-man rush.
The Action Network projection has UTEP -12, giving value to the current market number on the Miners. The hesitation is the pace of play with a Dana Dimel team, as running the play clock is the identity of the offense.
If New Mexico State is unable to stop the explosive pass, this could be a big night for Cowing and a long evening for the Aggies.
While UTEP is the only look from a point-spread point of view, the total has steamed through the week. The Miners will attempt downfield passing and look to execute at the level of Tarleton State and Dixie State.
The question on the projected total of 59 is whether or not New Mexico State can hold up its end of the deal in the scoring department.
Considering this is a revenge game from 2019, the best look is a UTEP team total over rather than on the full game.
Pick: UTEP -10 or better | Team Total Over 34 or better.