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SMU at UTEP Game Preview

A game preview for this Saturday's Conference USA matchup between the SMU Mustangs and the UTEP Miners in El Paso.

Cooper Neill - Getty Images

After hitting an extreme low last Saturday at East Carolina, the Miners now turn around to face an SMU team that has had plenty of its own struggles. The Miners are now 1-4, 0-1 on the season, and if there is any ounce of life still left in them it will have to show this weekend.

As mentioned, the Miners are coming off a 28-18 loss at the hands of East Carolina in a wild, weather delayed contest. The Mustangs, likewise are coming off a loss, but theirs came at home at the hands of crosstown rival, #15 TCU 24-16.

The Mustangs are led by quarterback Garrett Gilbert who transferred in from the University of Texas, but much like his time with the Longhorns, he's struggled to find his way. On the season, Gilbert has only completely 49.5% of his passes for 884 yards and 4 touchdowns compared to 9 interceptions.

The rushing attack is led by senior running back Zach Line, who has now racked up 343 yards and 3 touchdowns on 75 carries. He's currently averaging 4.6 yards per rush, and is the only SMU running back to have tallied more than 10 carries on the season.

The receiving corp is headed by group of talented wideouts. Junior wide receiver Jeremy Johnson has racked up the most yards with 189 on 18 catches, but four other receivers have 14 or more grabs, and five others have totalled more than 100 yards through the air.

The Mustang defense is led by guys like senior defensive end Margus Hunt, junior linebacker Randall Joyner, senior linebacker Taylor Reed, and junior defensive back Kenneth Acker.

Hunt has racked up 9 tackles and 2 sacks over the last two games, Joyner has tallied 27 tackles and an interception, Reed has 29 tackles (including 20 in the last two games) and a pass deflection, and Acker has 15 tackles, 2 interceptions (1 for a touchdown) and 3 pass deflections.

For the Miners, senior quarterback Nick Lamaison leads the way for the offense. On the season he has passed for 954 yards and 8 touchdowns, while tossing 3 interceptions (all against ECU). It's safe to say Lamaison had his worst game as a Miner against the Pirates. If he continues to struggle, look for junior Carson Meger to get some time under center.

The UTEP rushing attack is led by sophomore Nathan Jeffery who seemed to be back at 100% on Saturday after missing plenty of time due to a strained groin. He now has 320 yards on 56 attempts, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Look for freshman Autrey Golden to also get a healthy workload as well.

The passing game is dominated by senior wideout Mike Edwards, and sophomore Jordan Leslie. Edwards has 27 catches for 455 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Leslie has 20 grabs for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns of his own. Sophomore Malcolm Trail is the only other receiver with more than 10 catches (11 for 89 yards).

The defense is led by senior free safety DeShawn Grayson, and senior linebacker Jamie Irving. On the season, Grayson has racked up 37 tackles and 4 pass deflections, while Irving, who missed time due to injury, made a full return to action against ECU and totaled 8 tackles.

The bottom line is that this is a must win game for both teams. Maybe more so the Miners. UTEP is sitting at 1-4, and 0-1 in conference play, and they can ill afford to go out and drop the first conference home game.

This team is far too talented to let this season go to waste, but the truth is it is almost completely lost. If they aren't able to pick up this win, all the promise and potential that this team has shown will mean nothing. Once again, its now or never.

Miners 35, Mustangs 24