NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Legion Field Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama|
Southern Miss has had a decided edge in this series, but much is different about this one.
Atop that list is UTEP’s quarterback, the comfortable and confident fourth-year junior Gavin Hardison. The Miners’ defense is stout, too, as it showed last weekend against Old Dominion.
The Golden Eagles possess a horrible offense, but the Old Dominion game showed UTEP that it cannot afford to take anyone lightly.
UTEP Miners (4-1)
They registered as one of our choice selections last week, as 5-point favorites at home against the Monarchs, and had to dig deep late to secure the victory and the cover.
UTEP trailed 21-20 when Hardison fashioned a drive that resulted in a Deion Hankins 3-yard touchdown run halfway through the final quarter. Hardison hit Justin Garrett for the 2-point conversion pass to make it 28-21.
Then it held Dominion on three drives, the first ending on an interception by fifth-year strong safety Dyvonne Inyang. The last covered 64 yards, from its own 5, but started stalling on a sack by fourth-year defensive end Praise Amaewhule.
Three incompletions later, Hardison took a knee with 35 ticks left. Game over.
At 10.2, Hardison is one of six national quarterbacks with a yards-per-pass figure in double digits. UTEP coach Dana Dimel and offensive coordinator Dave Warner, though, only call for passes 38% of the time, in the bottom 16 of the country.
It’s a steady, if unspectacular, game plan. Only 14 teams chew up the clock better than the Miners, and fifth-year senior Ronald Awatt (286 yards, 4.8 average, two TDs) is the main ground force. Hankins and Willie Eldridge contribute.
Jacob Cowing (585 yards, 24.4 average, four TDs) and the Super Senior Garrett (305, 16.9, two TDs) are Hardison’s dangerous targets.
The superstars of the squad, however, might be Inyang and Amaewhule, who spearhead a defense that yields only 4.4 yards per play (17th in the game), 305.2 per game (21st) and a third-down success rate of 32.8% (24th).
Opposing quarterbacks complete only 48.1% of their attempts, too, which is third in the nation.
UTEP At Southern Miss Full Sportsbook Odds
Southern Miss Golden Eagles (1-4)
Inyang and Amaewhule could excel, once more, against a very poor Southern Miss offense that averages 0.173 points per play. That ineptitude trails only North Texas (0.131) and Colorado (0.143) in the country.
Worse, the Eagles are worse at home, where their rate is 0.120.
They’ve gone through three quarterbacks. About the only threat is tailback Frank Gore Jr., who averages 16 runs and 72 yards a game.
It’s no surprise that they are in the bottom five of every major offensive category. They yield 34.8 points a game, which is in the bottom 20. What they do do well is stop the rush, giving up a top-20 3.1 yards per run.
Southern Miss lets opposing quarterbacks complete 75.68% of their attempts—only Kansas, at 76.24%, is worse. And the other guys gain 10.1 yards per pass. Three defenses own worse rates.
This, then, could be the game that Gavin Hardison puts up some big numbers that get him recognized nationally.
Sports Betting Recommendation
For some reason, maybe its many seasons of ineptitude, we took a shine to UTEP and Hardison when our parameters pointed toward them last week. So it appearing again this week was greeted with some excitement.
Hardison has been stellar, but Dimel doesn’t pressure him to any degree. This, however, is about numbers, taking advantage of line discrepancies, not rooting for any player or team.
And the numbers show that UTEP’s defense should treat Southern Miss like a jay-vee squad. The Miners last recorded a shutout, 34-0 at Texas–San Antonio, midway through the 2014 season. This could be their first in seven seasons.