UTEP vs. FIU prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Miners and Golden Panthers on Saturday in El Paso, TX.
UTEP vs. FIU Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX
TV Broadcast: N/A
The Miners (1-4, 0-1 Conference USA) fell 28-7 last week to Louisiana Tech on the road, allowing Bulldogs head coach Skip Holtz to move to 7-0 all time against them in his career. The Miners have lost four straight after beating New Mexico State in the season opener.
Meanwhile, the Golden Panthers (1-4, 0-1) won their first game of the season last week, as Alex McGough ran for two touchdowns and passed for another in a 33-31 win over Florida Atlantic in Miami. It marked the first game played under interim head coach Ron Cooper, who took over after Ron Turner was dismissed.
In last year’s meeting in Miami, McGough threw two scores as FIU beat up on UTEP, 52-12. FIU outgained UTEP in total yards 518 to 272.
What To Know About UTEP
The Miners opened up their quarterback competition following their offensive struggles in the loss to Southern Miss, and sophomore Ryan Metz received the start last week for head coach Sean Kugler. Against Louisiana Tech, Metz went 20-of-28 passing for 215 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He stabilized the offense a bit. Turnovers and penalties have plagued the Miners this season, and the offense had two more giveaways and six flags last week.
What to Know About FIU
The Golden Panthers desperately needed a win after going winless through their first four games, firing Turner and too-often being anemic on offense. In last week’s victory, McGough was 15-of-30 passing for 199 yards. It wasn’t pretty, but the ground game was effective. Cooper has head-coaching experience from his time at Eastern Michigan and Louisville, and the environment on the practice field should be loose as he tries to get his players to start having fun again after a rough start to the season.
Offense: Even. Do not expect a ton of offensive fireworks in this one, as both offenses rank in the 100’s in FBS in total offense.
Defense: Even. Neither unit has had a lot of success slowing down opposing offenses this fall.
Special Teams: FIU. Kicker Austin Taylor is a perfect 6-of-6 on field goals this year.
Coaching: Even. Kugler is trying to get UTEP back to a bowl game after going to one in 2014, while Cooper is trying to salvage this season as an interim head coach.
Intangibles: FIU. The Golden Panthers finally broke into the win column last week, while the Miners have not won since Week 1.
Matchup To Watch
Jonnu Smith vs. UTEP 3-4 defense
Alex Gardner, who has seven career 100-yard rushing games, and Anthony Jones can be productive on the ground for FIU. But the Golden Panthers still need some semblance of a passing attack. One player they can lean on is tight end Jonnu Smith, a Jordan Reed-esque pass-catcher who may have an NFL future. He is the team’s leading receiver, and he’s also caught a pass in 37 consecutive games. He has been on the Mackey Award Watch List the last few preseasons, and he can be a mismatch for the Miners’ 3-4 scheme because this defense has not seen a player of his caliber this season. Smith has the ability to stretch the field against this defense.
Spread: UTEP -5
UTEP vs. FIU Prediction
This will be a low-scoring game. I think the stability of Metz at the quarterback position combined with the running from Aaron Jones, who has 660 rushing yards and five touchdowns, will be the difference in a close win for the Miners.
UTEP vs. FIU Score Prediction: UTEP 23, FIU 20