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UTEP Football Prepares to Enter Conference USA Play

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

After finishing off the non-conference run with a 37-26 loss at #23 Wisconsin, the Miners football team will now open up conference action on the road against ECU. Saturday's setback dropped the Miners to 1-3 overall with their lone win coming at home against New Mexico State.

While no one expected this team to knock off any of the three BCS teams they faced, they certainly had plenty of opportunities that were squandered away. All in all though, the Miners showed, in spurts, that they are not a team to be taken lightly, no matter who they are playing.

So, again, here we sit at a somewhat expected 1-3, with another tough road trip on the horizon. East Carolina is a program that regularly sells out Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, and is a solid 6-2 at home in conference play over the last two seasons.

The other side of the coin is that UTEP is only 1-7 on the road in Conference USA over that same time period, and is a horrendous 5-22 since joining the league. The Miners have only faced ECU one time in Greenville as a C-USA opponent; in 2008 the Pirates won 53-21.

Of course, history mean very little, if anything at all for this team. This is perhaps one of the most talented, and certainly the most experienced team that Mike Price has ever had in his time at UTEP. While the record says 1-3, it doesn't truly speak to how good they can be.

And, while ECU will have the home field advantage on Saturday, who is actually the better team is still up for debate. Yes, the Miners have failed to capitalize on opportunities that they've had, and have lost games that they certainly could have won, but they've looked good in stretches.

The Pirates on the other hand, have really struggled so far this year. While they are 2-2, their wins have come against Appalachian State (an FCS team that is 2-2) at home, and also against Southern Miss (who is now 0-3) on the road. Their losses came at #7 South Carolina (48-10), and at North Carolina (27-6).

Most of the issues for the Pirates have come on the offensive side of the ball. ECU already has given away 8 turnovers, and is having issues establishing the run, and getting points on the board. Outside of the Appalachian State game, they have only topped 100 yards rushing once, and have averaged only 13.33 points a game.

All that said, this will not be an easy game for the Miners. After traveling about 3,000 miles round trip last for last week's contest, they will now travel almost 4,000 this week. That travel alone will takes its toll on the team. Now is not the time for excuses though.

With a schedule like the Miners have this year, all wins will be tough to get. But, good teams pick up those tough wins. This weekend is our opportunity to prove just how good of a team we actually are, as it will have huge implications on the outcome of this season.

After the contest against ECU, the Miners return home to take on SMU, before a road trip to meet up with Conference USA West favorite Tulsa. If we're going to get this season on track, it will have to start this week. Let's see if we're up to the task.