This Saturday the UTEP Miners and the Colorado St. Rams square off against each other for the 34th time. The two schools rekindle an old flame that was sparked back when both schools were a part of the WAC. Colorado St. leads the series 24-9, winning the last meeting 20-17 back in 1998.
The Rams enter the contest at 3-3 overall, with a 1-1 mark in the Mountain West Conference. They are fresh off a 63-13 thumping at the hands of Boise St., and they lost to San Jose St. at home the week before that. Their other loss came in week three at the hands of Colorado. CSU has wins over New Mexico (14-10), Northern Colorado (33-14), and Utah St. (35-34 OT).
The Miners come in fresh off their most impressive performance of the season, a 44-7 drubbing of Tulane in New Orleans. The win wasn't perfect, as there were still 3 turnovers, and Nick Lamaison was only 6-15 passing, but it was an overall team effort, with the offense, defense, and special teams each contributing in big ways.The Miners are really beginning to find themselves at a crucial point in the season. The run game that had been completely ineffective in the first two games has averaged 260+ yards a game in the last two. Outside of the Houston and USF games, the Miner defense is only giving up 17 points a game. Saturday's game against Tulane saw the Miners hold the Green Wave to 7 points, and force 4 turnovers.
The Miners come into this game ranked 56th in the nation with 233 passing yards per game. Their rushing average continues to improve as they are now averaging 147 yards a game, good for 65th nationally. UTEP also ranks 61st in points for at 29 points a game, and 74th in points against allowing 28 points a contest.
Colorado St. is led by Sophomore QB Pete Thomas. Thomas has completed 64% of his passes for nearly 1200 yards, 6 TDs, and 6 INTs. At RB, its sophomore Chris Nwoke who leads the way with 77 carries for 305 yards and 4 TDs. Senior RB Raymond Carter is also a force out of the backfield, totaling 60 carries for 284 yards and 2 TDs.
The Rams have 5 receivers who have double digit catches on the season, and three with 180 yards plus. Leading the way is Junior Lou Greenwood who has 15 catches for 257 yards and 2 TDs. Crockett Gillmore, a 6'6 sophomore Tight End, has become the favorite target, hauling in 24 catches for 256 yards and 3 TDs.
Colorado St. passes for 209 yards per game, ranking 79th in the nation, and rush for 113 yards a game, good for 98th. On average, the Rams put up 23 points a game, good for 86th, and they rank 93rd in points against, giving up over 31 a game.
I don't think there is any question as to which team is playing better at this point, and there's even less of a question as to who is more healthy. The Rams carry 12 injured players, many of which are expected to miss this Saturday's game, while the Miners are as healthy as they've ever been, with only one true injury. Travaun Nixon aggravated his sprained knee, is day to day, and could certainly still play on Saturday.
The Miners have an opportunity to get above .500, just passed the midway point of the season. Most said that this Miner team wouldn't win 4 games all season, and they've got a chance to do that this week (week 8) at home. They've proven everybody wrong, and are playing some great football.
If this team can continue to play the way it has in the last two weeks, we should definitely find ourselves in a position for a very successful season. Needless to say, Saturday is a must win. Colorado St. will not be a pushover, but this Miner team should get the win.
Projection: UTEP 38, Colorado St. 20