Another week passes us in Minerland and there's a lot going on. I think the best way to catch everybody up is to go through a Picks Up/ Picks Down analysis. So, here we go...
1. Tim Floyd Showing the Program is Bigger than Any One Player
Tim Floyd sent a message loud and clear to the Miner Nation on Saturday when he didn't start the reigning C-USA Player of the Year Randy Culpepper against the Michigan Wolverines. I realize that Floyd played down the move as being caused due to "matchups" but I'm not buying that. No UTEP matchups against other teams are improved with RC3 on the bench. I don't know what RC3 did or didn't do to deserve the short demotion, but when he got in the Michigan game he played smart, efficient basketball and finished with 24 points and 3 steals with only 1 turnover.
2. Get Your Guns Up!
Thank you Texas Tech, for knocking off a reeling Houston Cougars squad 35-20 on Saturday. The loss means Houston ends their season at 5-7 and is not bowl eligible and of course means that UTEP is guaranteed to receive their first bowl bid since the 2005 season. After blowing out West Champion SMU and then beating Memphis, the wheels really came off for Kevin Sumlins squad who couldn't get a win in their final four games to become bowl eligible. UCF, Tulsa, USM, and Texas Tech is about as hard as it can get for any C-USA squad in the final month of the season.
3. Surf or Drink?
College Football News (thanks Miner Mike) projects UTEP to land in the Hawaii Bowl against the Hawaii Rainbows. CNNSI's Stewart Mandel thinks UTEP lands in New Orleans against the Sun Belt Champion Florida International. ESPN agrees with Mandel. The New Mexico Bowl is still a possibility as ESPN could try to move the Miners into Albuquerque in an effort to fill the bleachers against a MWC opponent (possibly BYU). Right now, though, the favorites are New Orleans and Hawaii. NBC Sports has UTEP in the Sun Bowl- yes, the Sun Bowl. Is it possible?
4. UTEP Men's Basketball is a Fun Team to Watch
Behind the neck passes, Randy Culpepper's thunder dunks, and a coaching legend on the sideline. This is going to be one heck of a basketball team to watch under Tim Floyd. When beating the Michigan Wolverines is no big deal to Miner fans because it was simply expected, then you know that UTEP basketball is back.
5. Womens Basketball Love?
Whenever I can, I'll try and emphasize stellar achievements in the "Other Sports." Those are anything not called football and mens basketball. I wanted to point out that the womens team is now 6-2 and their only losses were in overtime to NMSU and by 3 to the SEC's Arkansas Razorbacks. Here's the recap.
Want to wish Randy Culpepper good luck before the NMSU game? Or if you just want to know whats going on with UTEP players in general, follow them on twitter. Randy Culpepper, Mike Perez, and Christian Polk are all on and waiting to be followed.
7. C-USA Basketball
UTEP beat Michigan. UAB beat Arkansas. Memphis has beat Miami and LSU. Southern Miss and UCF both beat South Florida. The Rice Owls took #21 Texas to the wire in Austin. Tulsa beat Stanford. The C-USA has had some early season success. Of course, it would be better off if SMU could beat UC-Riverside and University of Arkansas- Little Rock or if Houston could beat Louisiana Tech but so far all C-USA squads are at least .500. It could be a lot worse.
1. The Sun Bowl.... Now the Toilet Bowl?
What happened to the Sun Bowl? My goodness, I kept hearing that Cal and Miami were Sun Bowl bound. A year after Oklahoma played Stanford I couldn't help but be impressed with the Sun Bowl crew for finding a matchup that possible surpassed that. Now, a Cal loss and the firing of Miami head coach Randy Shannon have led the experts to peg a Maryland vs. Toledo matchup? Even ESPN thinks Toledo will be in town. Is the Sun Bowl still getting all that money from the car rental tax? If so, how are they giving taxpayers Toledo in exchange for that?
If tax payers are going to subsidize the Sun and the Sun is going to give the tax payers Lee Greenwood and Toledo, I say give the money to UTEP athletics instead. (Note: God Bless the USA is a great song, but Greenwood doesn't quite bring a 'buzz' the way that say Rihanna or Los Lonely Boys did in years past but at least there won't be a "YMCA" record attempt).
When the Sun Bowl worked out their former agreement with the Gator Bowl and the Big East/Big 12, I couldn't help but be impressed with the forward thinking of the hybrid contract. The Sun was able to secure some good teams out of that deal including the Sooners. But, when the Sun allowed themselves to get passed up by the Alamo with the Pac 10, I feared we could be doomed to a never ending run of Oregon State appearances again. Worse than that, the PAC 10 probably won't field enough teams to even give us a 6-6 Oregon State or Washington. Enter Toledo?
If Toledo somehow gets into the game, it will be the most unappealing Sun Bowl game in decades. At least tickets will be cheap and easy to come by.
2. SMU Representing the C-USA West
SMU was very lucky to draw Tulsa on October 9 and not any later in the season. I don't think anybody in Houston, El Paso, or Tulsa think SMU is the best team in the C-USA West right now. Tulsa ended the season on a six game winning streak and their win over now 7-5 Notre Dame trump anything SMU was able to do this season. SMU did finish the year with a nice OT win over East Carolina. Tulsa of course only has themselves to blame for not winning the division- and boy did that week 1 loss to East Carolina on the Hail Mary play come back to get them.
3. Aaron King- Yikes
Former Miner DT Aaron King was arrested over the holiday weekend for domestic violence. Police say "he choked and punched his 23-year-old girlfriend." Not nice at all. Picks down.
4. Excuses, Excuses
Bret Bloomquist wrote a heck of a season in review article in Sunday's El Paso Times. Last season, all we heard about was how injuries were what kept UTEP away from a successful season. This year, it seems Mike Price is singing the same tune. Price told Bloomquist "I've never had a team, I've never seen a team have the injuries we did." BB does a heck of a job summarizing the plague that befell the Miners, and I'm not saying injuries weren't a huge part of the season. But, injuries are part of the game. It wasn't injuries that caused the coaches to call that out pattern that TV had picked off against Tulane or against Marshall. It wasn't injuries that caused the mind numbing sequence of plays that ended the Marshall game. The end of the Tulsa game? Not caused by injuries either.
I think the offensive line played some good football- even against Arkansas down the stretch, despite injuries and musical chairs at center/guard/left tackle yet it seems that many want to look at the injuries there and say the line played bad and thats what led to UTEP losing some close games. Trevor Vittatoe wasn't throwing interceptions because of the pressure in his face. Joseph Banyard and Leilyon Myers had some help up front as they got it going down the stretch. Injuries are part of why UTEP didn't win more games, but aren't the only reason.
Did I miss anything? Let me know.