SportsRatings 2014 College Football Pre-season Top 128
|UTEP Miners (C-USA #12; West #7)|
|AP NR USA NR||Strength:#122 Success:#113 Overall:#118|
|Record: 2-10||Bowl: None|
|Picks: AP NR | USA NR | Lindy's #114 | Athlon #117 | Steele #120|
|Record: 3-9||Bowl odds: 7% Playoff odds: <1%|
We're projecting incremental advancement, not a breakthrough—for the Miners this year.
8 ret. starters
|2013 Scoring Offense: #105 (raw) #116 (adjusted for opposition)|
|2014 Projected Scoring Offense: #104 (adjusted)
Coach Sean Kugler has suggested the Miners might be passing more this year, but we'll believe it when we see it given the strong rushing attack they should have this year.
|2013 Passing Rank: #114 (raw) #119 (adjusted)||2013 Sacks Allowed (adj.): #92|
|2014 Projected Passing Rank: #120 (adjusted)
||2014 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #103|
QB Jameill Showers (1,263 yards, 11 TDs, 4 int) did a decent job in UTEP's run-first offense and might get more opportunity to throw the ball, especially if he avoids injury this season. But three of the team's 5 top receivers are gone including #1 Jordan Leslie (612 yards); #2 Ian Hamilton (354) is the top returnee. This leaves the passing game in about the same situation it was last year—unless Kugler follows through with his threats to balance the offense, which we aren't counting on.
|Rushing||2013 Rushing Rank: #47 (raw) #67 (adjusted)||2014 Projected Rushing Rank: #52 (adj.)
UTEP is a decent rushing team, and most of the backfield returns including Aaron Jones (811 yards) and Nathan Jeffery (549). The offensive line will be about as effective, with three starters returning including Kyle Brown who is in his third year as a starter. We see the running game moving firmly into the top half nationally.
|2013 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #119 Pass Defense per-game: #79 Per-attempt: #122|
7 ret. starters
|'13 Scoring Defense: #120 (raw) #121 (adjusted)||'13 sacks: #120||'13 picks: #125|
|'14 Projected Scoring Defense: #124 (adjusted)
||'14 sacks: #122||'14 picks: #121|
UTEP lines up in a 4-2-5 most of the time, and the front six returns only two starters, one in the defensive line and one at linebacker. So don't count on UTEP's terrible rushing defense to get much better. But the pass defense was every bit as bad and there might be help on the way; the secondary essentially returns everyone, led by the team's top tackler Devin Cockrell. Overall the Miners drop a bit in our rankings but should give up fewer points, though the difference may be slight.
- Kicking Game: UTEP returns both kicker Jay Mattox, who made just 7 of 13 field goals last year, and punter Mike Ruggles who averaged 40 yards per kick.
- Return Game: Kick returner Autrey Golden, who had two touchdown returns while averaging 27.6 per return, is back, while main punt returner Jim Jones (5.4 average) departs.
- Turnovers projection: UTEP should do better with interceptions on both sides of the ball. Last year 4 of the team's interceptions were thrown by 3rd stringer Blair Sullivan in just 26 attempts and he's gone. The defense only intercepted 3 passes last year and that number should go up considerably—it almost has to!
- Injury correction: UTEP's injury rate was only slightly higher than normal last year overall.
Coaching/Recruiting 2014 Recruiting Rank: #108 2013 Recruiting Rank: #123
Coach Sean Kugler's 2nd recruiting class is an improvement over the transition year as expected but still ranks in the bottom half in Conference USA. Perhaps their best move was to get ex-Washington State running back Jeremiah Laufasa, who joins two brothers (one a player, one a grad assistant) here and got an eligibility waiver for this season.
UTEP lost their first game of 2013 in overtime to New Mexico, 42-35, then beat New Mexico State 42-21 to even their record. But it would be a long time before they got their 2nd win. The Miners lost four straight, then fell to Rice, Texas A&M, and North Texas by scores of 45-7, 57-7, and 41-7 before beating Florida International 33-10. Two more bad losses made Kugler's coaching debut here less than memorable.
Last year's prediction: We overranked the Miners at #112 last year, but not by too much. Our 4-8 projection was a little too optimistic as well. We did accurately pick the New Mexico State and FIU wins, though we thought they'd beat New Mexico and Louisiana Tech. They lost those games by 7 in overtime and by 3 points, so we were in striking distance of picking every game correct, if that counts for anything...
UTEP 2014 schedule & forecast
|9/13||Sat||vs.||New Mexico State||93%||W|
Straight up: 2-10 Cume: 3-9 Bowl eligible: 7%
This year our outlook isn't quite as rosy, but we think the team can beat last year's win total, or at least match it. The game by game projection calls for a repeat of 2-10, but the cumulative projection is split between 3 and 4 wins.
The home game vs. New Mexico State looks like a solid win, and Southern Miss still looks vulnerable enough for the Miners to beat. Beyond that they'll need some upsets, and there are a number of possibilities throughout the year. The only games that look like solid losses are Texas Tech, Kansas State, Texas-San Antonio(!), and maybe Rice. Everything else is in play, though getting to bowl eligibility is a long shot unless the team improves a lot more than we're guessing.
Sometimes things click in a coach's second year when a new offense has been thoroughly learned. There should be fewer blowouts this year, and if they can keep games close—and get lucky here and there—a bowl season might become a reality.
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SportsRatings 2014 College Football Pre-season Top 128