UTEP Preview 2006
UTEP Miners
Posted Aug 6, 2006

Maybe UTEP should find a way to schedule all its games before mid-November.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

How's this for a bizarre stat? Since 1989, 17 seasons, UTEP is 11-48 in November and 3-28 from November 15th on. Granted, the Miners stunk in many of those years, and not just in November, but the last two seasons under Mike Price have to be a bit disturbing.  

In 2004, UTEP was enjoying a shocking turnaround season with an 8-2 record going into a final regular season road game against a mediocre Tulsa team. The Miners lost 37-35, and later lost to Colorado in the Houston Bowl.

Last season was far worse. At 8-1 and with the Conference USA title, or at least the West, there for the taking, all UTEP had to do was win one of its final two games against either UAB or SMU. Neither team was going anywhere fast, but both beat UTEP before Price's team got pantsed by Toledo 45-13 in the GMAC Bowl.

Head coach: Mike Price
3rd year: 16-8
25th year overall: 145-130
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Miner Players
1. QB Jordan Palmer, Sr.
2. WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, Sr.
3. DE Alex Obomese, Sr.
4. RB Marcus Thomas, Jr.
5. FS Quintin Demps, Jr.
6. LB Jeremy Jones, Sr.
7. LB Troy Collavo, Sr.
8. SS Joe Fleskoski, Sr.
9. C Robby Felix, Soph.
10. DT Zach West, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

8/31 at San Diego State
9/9 Texas Tech
9/23 at New Mexico
9/30 New Mexico State
10/7 SMU
10/14 Tulane
10/21 at Houston
10/27 at Tulsa
11/4 Rice
11/10 at UAB
11/18 at Marshall
11/25 Memphis

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 8-4

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at N Mexico St W 34-17
9/16 Houston W 44-41 2OT
9/24 New Mexico W 21-13
10/1 at Memphis L 27-20
10/14 at Tulane W 45-21
10/22 Marshall W 31-3
10/29 at Rice W 38-31
11/5 Tulsa W 41-38
11/12 Texas Southern W 45-0
11/19 UAB L 35-23
11/26 at SMU L 40-27
12/21 GMAC Bowl
Toledo L 45-13

For the second straight season, UTEP is the best team in Conference USA. There's no question that Price can coach, and the West is the far, far easier of the two divisions. Now it's time for the turnaround to be complete.

For all of QB Jordan Palmer's great stats, he imploded over the last few games having a nightmare of a time with turnovers. The defense somehow got worse as the year went on despite the emergence of several great young stars. The special teams were among the best in the conference, and will be again. The All-Conference USA teams should be loaded with Miners and several have legitimate pro potential. Yes, talent won't be an issue.

The offense was too one-sided last year relying on Palmer's arm way too much. That's not needed with the emergence of top back Marcus Thomas (although, the team's 2005 meltdown coincided with when Thomas got hot). The line gets three starters back, Johnnie Lee Higgins leads an explosive receiving corps, and the defense can't help but be better with everyone healthy on the line, one of the best safety tandems in the league in Quintin Demps and Joe Fleskoski, and a linebacking corps that could be even better despite losing NFLer Thomas Howard. The kicking game should be fantastic.

In other words, there's no excuse for UTEP not to win the Conference USA title. The program is two full seasons removed from the rock bottom days and has to be expected to do big things. Of course, even if things go well, November is lurking just around the corner.

The Schedule: So who does UTEP play in November? Rice, at UAB, at Marshall and Memphis. That's not an easy road, but Rice is the only game against a West Division foe. The big battles against Tulsa and Houston, unfortunately, are on the road within six days of each other. On the plus side, at least for you trend freaks, those are the last two games in October. There's a nice stretch of four games in five weeks early on with what has to be seen as the soft part of the schedule playing New Mexico State, SMU, and Tulane before dealing with Houston. Texas Tech comes to El Paso for what should be a fun shootout.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Jordan Palmer. For all his faults and all his interceptions, he's going to put the UTEP passing records into the stratosphere. He already owns most of the top marks with 7,489 yards and 62 touchdowns. Now he'll put them out of reach. More importantly, he has to be a consistent leader who plays well enough to take his team to a title.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Alex Obomese. The 245-pound senior projects as a linebacker at the next level with the speed to be an effective pass rusher and the strength to handle himself well against the run. He has to handle all the pressure of being a marked man this season by every opposing blocking scheme.

Key player to a successful season: Palmer. He has the ability to single-handedly carry the offense. When he's on, the offense can hang with just about anyone in a shootout. But when he's off, like he was against Toledo completing 14 of 33 passes, things can get really ugly.

The season will be a success if ... UTEP wins the Conference USA title. Tulsa might be the league's best team, but UTEP is hardly going to whither as the second banana despite away games at Houston and Tulsa as part of a stretch of four conference road trips in five weeks.

Key game: Oct. 21 at Houston. The Cougars have as much firepower as the Miners with a veteran quarterback of its own in Kevin Kolb. The winner of this game will have the upper hand in the West Division race with UTEP getting to face Tulsa on national TV six days later.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- UTEP scoring by quarter: 1st 94, 2nd 92, 3rd 94, 4th 92
- Turnovers: UTEP 34 - Opponents 24
- Interception return average: UTEP 20.4 yards per return (14 interceptions) - Opponents 10.1 yards per return (20 interceptions)

The Last Time UTEP…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (GMAC Bowl v. Toledo)
…missed a bowl game…2003
…pitched a shutout…2005 (Texas Southern)
…was shutout…2003 (San Diego State)
…scored 50 points…2004 (SMU)
…went undefeated…never
…won a conference title…2000 (share, WAC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2005 (Jordan Palmer)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Howard Jackson)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2000 (Lee Mays)
…had a first-round draft choice…1968 (LB Fred Carr)

Related Stories
UTEP Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
UTEP Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
UTEP Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006

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