This Saturday's storyline is simple just as last week's storyline was simple.
Saturday's Storyline: Build!
The Red Raiders need to build off last week's win. Some aspects of the last week's game may not have went exactly the way the coaches and players wanted, but the outcome was perfect. The Red Raiders are 1-0 which is the best record possible after one game. Now the plan is to build on the win by improving on the mistakes and sharpening up the successes.
The schedule gets intense after this game. Following UTEP, the Red Raiders head to Fayetteville for a matchup with Arkansas, host TCU and then play Baylor in Arlington. Facing three Top 25 teams in weeks three, four and five of the season doesn't leave the opportunity to build much momentum before you get to those games. The Red Raiders must be firing on all pistons when next week rolls around if they plan on getting one, two or three wins out of those three games.
In Hunter's preview yesterday, he pointed out that UTEP gave up 308 yards through the air to Arkansas on 14 completions. Brandon Allen, the Hog quarterback, averaged 6.7 yards per passing attempt last season. Last week, Allen averaged over 17 yards per attempt. This was also Allen's first career 300-yard game. He only broke 200 yards passing in a game four times last season. Arkansas is a ground and pound team as we all know. The fact the Hogs were so effective through the air versus the Miners should have Red Raider fans licking their chops when thinking about this matchup.
After one week, UTEP's offense ranks 119 out of 123 teams nationally. They only put up 204 yards offensively versus Arkansas. The Arkansas defense is stout, so UTEP's offensive stats should improve but last year their offense ranked #105 nationally. As bad as we felt about our game last season with UTEP, we didn't give up 400 yards to the Miners. We gave up 393 yards, while their average last season was 350 yards per game. I think we would all feel pretty good giving up less than 400 yards tomorrow. Last season's game was a nail biter because the offense sputtered on and off all game while the defense gave up a handful of long sustained drives.
Tomorrow I don't expect the offense to sputter in the same fashion. I think this year's UTEP defense is weaker and we have the home crowd behind us. UTEP's offense is one dimensional. If we tackle and don't hurt ourselves with penalties, we should be able to limit their scoring.
Prediction: I think this game comes at a good time after a tougher than expected game last week. The game can be and will be a building block. I expect a much better and cleaner game out the Red Raiders. I predict a 52-28 win for the Red Raiders.