UTEP’s lone win this season came against an FCS opponent, as their losing streak is up to three games entering this conference matchup at home against Louisiana Tech. We’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing on the moneyline in this one.
Louisiana Tech is fresh off a competitive game against a power five opponent, as they fell 28-14 to Nebraska over the weekend. Given the circumstances of not having their starting quarterback under center, the Bulldogs kept things close with the Cornhuskers. Since quarterback Hank Bachmeier was out with an injury, Jack Turner stepped in and played well in his absence, throwing for 292 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
Bachmeier’s status is still in the air for tonight’s game, meaning it will likely be a game-time decision on who is leading the Bulldogs offense. Regardless of who is leading it, LA Tech has an explosive offensive unit that ranks 46th in EPA and 50th in EPA on pass plays, so without a power five defense lined up against them, we could see them get closer to the offensive output they produced in the two weeks prior.
Not only will LA Tech not have a power-five defense lined up against them, but they will get a UTEP defense that has struggled this season. After allowing 45 points to UTEP in their 45-28 loss this past weekend, the Miners are now 121st in defensive EPA and 98th in success rate. Whether through the air or on the ground, the Miners have allowed yards at an alarming rate, as they are 78th in passing yards allowed per attempt (7.7) and 126th in rush yards allowed per attempt (5.8).
Offensively, the Miners have not been much better, entering tonight ranked 98th in EPA and 96th in success rate. Their quarterback, Gavin Hardison, has had a turnover problem this season, with seven interceptions already thrown. The Miners offense has a 50-50 split on pass and run play percentage, but trying to establish a run game has not been easy for them, averaging just 100 rush yards per game.
Lousiana Tech is listed as a (+1) point underdog in most shops, but for my play, I’ll be backing them on the moneyline at (-105). I think the Bulldogs have the ability to win this game outright thanks to a solid passing offense and ultra-impressive passing defense. Quarterback Jack Turner proved he is more than capable of running the offense, and he has an ideal matchup against the Miners' defense.
The UTEP defense is 98th in defensive success rate and 107th in EPA allowed on pass plays this season. No matter who is under center, the Bulldogs are averaging 270.8 passing yards a game, which is good for 36th in the country. LA Tech should also be able to find success on the ground, as Keith Willis Jr. should be able to run all over the UTEP defense, ranked 124th in EPA per rush play.
As I mentioned, the Miners run a well-balanced offense, but with their matchup tonight and Hardison’s turnover problems, they may need to lean more on the run. LA Tech ranks 12th in defensive success rate on pass plays, and according to PFF, they have the 9th-best coverage grade. If the Miners are forced to rely on a run game that is 113th in EPA per play, I don’t think they can keep pace with the Bulldogs.
Louisiana Tech (-105)