Inside Texas UTEP Picks

IT’s Bill Frisbie, Ross Lucksinger, Mike Blackwell, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross give you their picks, and their reasoning for the picks, for Saturday’s match-up between Texas and UTEP.

Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer – Any legitimate concern that this could be a trapdoor game for Texas was diminished with UTEP’s ugly 42-17 loss at Buffalo last Thursday. (That would be the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference, not the Bills of the National Football League.)

Basically, Texas is playing a team the caliber of Baylor. (The Bears may actually have a better defense than the Miners.) Longhorn RS-freshman Fozzy Whittaker is expected to get his first collegiate snap Saturday; his lateral shake-and-bake complements the pile-drive, straight-away styles of Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya. Conversely, it’s hard to fathom UTEP pounding the ball against Texas’ defensive front (even without starting DT Lamarr Houston). The Miners’ offense will become one-dimensional in a hurry, providing Texas’ freshman safeties a tune-up for Big 12 passing attacks.

UTEP is capable of hanging around if the Horns don’t deliver the type of first-half knockout we’ve seen the past two contests. Mack Brown was not at all pleased that his club gave up a late-second quarter TD to Florida Atlantic, so the Burnt Orange crystal ball says the Horns will be fast out of the starting gate and cruise to their second blowout win in as many outings.

“We got after Florida Atlantic; we’re going to get after UTEP,” vowed senior Aaron Lewis, subbing for Houston this week.

Besides…if the Bulls can put 42 on the scoreboard against UTEP, the Horns should be able to hang 50. Texas 51, UTEP 9.

Ross Lucksinger, Inside Texas Editor – Listen, UTEP is bad. I mean, really bad. The Miners had the nation’s 117th-ranked defense last season and appear to have gotten worse (although I guess it should be noted the 484 yards they gave up to Buffalo is under last season’s average of 504.8).

This doesn’t mean that the Horns should overlook UTEP, just that this, like last week, will be another blowout. It won’t be a shutout, though. UTEP does a good job on offense of spreading the ball around and, like last week, the young Texas DBs will give up one big pass play on a broken coverage or missed tackle (or in the case of last week, both on the same play).

But overall the pass defense will be improved. Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe won’t be as successful as FAU’s Rusty Smith was against Texas (at least in the first half) because there will be significantly more pressure on him this Saturday. UTEP employs a ‘big’ protection scheme, which is much more of a man-on-man, straight up blocking style, as opposed to Florida Atlantic’s slide scheme. This bodes well for the Longhorns and even with DT Lamarr Houston out of the lineup we’ll see some sacks.

It’s a road game and the UTEP crowd will be fired up, though it won’t be as bad a last season at UCF because there will also be a lot of west Texas Longhorn fans there, and Texas won’t win by a gigantic margin — I could also see Mack Brown taking his foot off the pedal because he considers UTEP coach Mike Price a friend — but it will still be a solid blowout win for Texas. Texas 45, UTEP 13

Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor – Last week, after giving up a ton of points and losing to Buffalo (yes, Buffalo) in the season opener, UTEP head coach Mike Price said (tongue in cheek of course) that he sure hoped Texas wasn’t any better than Buffalo.

I’m not sure how much better Texas is than Buffalo, but I do know that this game will get way out of hand, way early.

Colt McCoy personifies the boy next door, but make no mistake, he begins this year with a killer’s heart. He was pinpoint last week, and the Miners’ defense may not be better this year than last, when they gave up points in bunches. The Longhorns will score at will, and the only thing that will keep them from scoring 60 points in this one is Mack Brown’s compassionate bearing.

Look for Vondrell McGee to hit the 100-yard mark in this one (yes, I know, I predicted this last week, too), and John Chiles, Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley will all reach the end zone as well. Chiles will see plenty of time at quarterback – McCoy will be out of the game by the end of the third period.

There has been plenty of talk of this being the biggest football game in UTEP history, the biggest party in El Paso’s history, the biggest event in the history of the football program. There’s even been talk that if the Miners start out hot, get a couple of “feeding frenzy”-type early turnovers and/or touchdowns, that maybe, just maybe…

Um, no.

The problem for the Miners, other than a world-apart level of talent on the field, is that Texas fans will most likely outnumber UTEP fans. Yes, the fans will be rowdy, and with kickoff not coming until after 9 p.m. central time, those fans will have a chance to do some serious pre-game drinking as they get their game face on. The problem for Price is that most of these fans will be Texas fans.

Defensively, the Longhorns are going to be hungry for some quarterback sacks, which they anticipated but did not get last week against Florida Atlantic. The Longhorns will swarm the Miners’ offense, and don’t be surprised if they pitch a shutout.

If Texas loses this game, I’ll run around the UT Tower buck naked. Texas 49, UTEP 14.

Michael Pearle, Co-publisher – Mike Price can coach, there’s no doubt about that. After getting Washington State to a couple of Rose Bowls, Price landed a top gig at Alabama before being brought down by stripper-gate. The Price era at UTEP started out almost unbelievably well with a couple of 8-4 seasons in 2004 and 2005 followed by bowl games for a team which, the previous two seasons, had won four games combined. But the Miners have posted losing records the last two years, and are currently on a seven-game losing streak. Yuck.

And how have they been losing? By giving up points by the zillions. In that seven-game skid, including the opening loss this year to Buffalo, UTEP gave up 303 points, or an average of over 43 points per game. This against teams such as Rice, Tulane and Houston. And this season they are without their leading tackler from a year ago.

So the Longhorns, with a confident Colt McCoy at the helm coming off an exceptional opening game performance, with hungry talent all around him at receiver and running back, should be able to name their score against what appears to be a Miner program in some phase of rebuilding. With the huge excitement surrounding this game out West, the Miners should come out sky high and may make a game of it for a couple of quarters based on sheer shock-the-nation adrenalin. But unless half the Texas team slips south to the Juarez cantinas Friday night and winds up in jail, this one will be a full-fledged rout. Texas 58, UTEP 17.

Clendon Ross, Co-publisher – Heading into the season opener, the Texas coaches got an assist from Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger. Schnellie’s “Texas players are momma’s boys who watch Oprah and wear skirts” comment (or something to that effect) ensured that the Longhorns would not look past the Owls. They could have probably used a similar slur from Mike Price this week.

UTEP put up a gallant effort in losing 42-17 to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills… wait, what’s that? The Miners lost by 25 to the University of Buffalo? Well that changes things a bit.

It’s gotta be a tough task for Texas coaches to convince their charges that UTEP is an imminent danger, even facing the Miners on the road, when last week, against the, um, Bulls (I would have guessed Bison, or perhaps Assassins; I would also guess that the latter nickname is the first William McKinley-based reference in Inside Texas), UTEP managed just 266 total yards of offense (with a meager 67 of those coming on the ground) while surrendering 484 (including 263 rushing).

Mack Brown is doing his part, rightly pointing out to his team that in upsets, you usually find two things, turnovers and special teams breakdowns by the favorite. That, along with the first road trip of the season, has given his team a sense of urgency despite the opponent’s less than stellar debut.

And then there’s Will Muschamp. I hear that he won’t wipe the blood off his face from last Saturday night’s sideline mishap (see this) until he gets a better performance from his defense (or something to that effect). Whatever tactic he uses, I suspect he’ll have his guys seeing blood.

That doesn’t mean we won’t see more secondary whiffs like we saw last week, but overall, an improving UT defense and a steady Longhorn offense, both showing a bit more of the playbook than we saw in the opener, will make for another tough night for the Miners. Texas 47, UTEP 12.

Pat Culpepper: Texas 56, UTEP 13.

Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 53, UTEP 12