The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7-3, 5-1) will head to the Lone Star State as they face the UTEP Miners (4-6, 2-4) in a Conference USA West Division matchup Saturday afternoon. Louisiana Tech has taken six of the previous seven meetings, including a 55-3 demolition at home as a 12 point favorite on October 4, 2014 in the most recent matchup.
Louisiana Tech has won three straight and six of their last seven as they clobbered North Texas 56-13 at home last Saturday. UTEP was knocked off 31-21 on the road by Old Dominion last week. The kickoff from the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas is scheduled for 3:30 pm ET and will be televised on Fox Sports Net. Louisiana Tech is currently a 25 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 55.5 points.
Louisiana Tech crushed North Texas as they continued their demolition of opponents with their explosive offense. The Bulldogs led 28-0 at the half and kept the Mean Green off the board until the fourth quarter; by then the score was already 49-0. Louisiana Tech outgained North Texas 573-316, finished with 25 first downs while allowing 20 and forced four turnovers to overcome their three miscues; the Bulldogs scored on a fumble return in the victory in the first quarter to set the tone.
The Bulldogs have a terrific offensive unit as they are 17th (314.8 yards) in passing offense and currently stand 62nd (172.9 yards per game) in rushing offense this season. Louisiana Tech is tied for 13th in the nation in scoring offense as they average 40 points per game though they are currently 54th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 24.8 points per game. Former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has connected on 215 of 346 passes for 3,032 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions while ranking second on the team with 278 yards and five scores. Kenneth Dixon is the top ground gainer for Louisiana Tech as he has run the ball 149 times for 933 yards with 17 scores; if he needs a breather, Jarred Craft (58 carries, 230 yards, TD) is next in line. Seven players have double digit receptions for Louisiana Tech this season; Trent Taylor is far and away the leading receiver with 75 grabs for 1,019 yards and seven scores while no other Bulldogs player has more than Paul Turner’s (410 yards, 3 TD) 31 receptions. Dixon has caught 22 passes out of the backfield while Carlos Henderson (27 receptions, 583 yards, 3 TD) and Kameron McKnight (20 grabs, 231 yards) are good secondary options. Jonathan Barnes has hit all 50 extra points and 16 of 20 field goal attempts on the year.
UTEP led 9-3 after one quarter and 15-10 late in the first half but they gave up 21 unanswered points and ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Mack Leftwich will miss this game for undisclosed reasons as well. The Miners were outgained 441-305, gave up 22 first downs while picking up 19 and turned the ball over twice in the game. UTEP lost command of the contest when they allowed Old Dominion to take the lead with six seconds to play in the opening half.
The Miners are a below average offensive team as they average 211.1 yards per game through the air (currently 80th in the nation) and 134.3 yards per game (tied for 107th in the nation) on the ground on the year. UTEP is putting up 21.3 points per game, which leaves them tied for 112th in the nation in scoring offense, but they are currently just 112th in the nation by allowing 36.1 points a contest. Ryan Metz has completed 66 of 109 passes for 753 yards with six touchdowns and six picks; Mack Leftwich (105 of 192, 1228 yards, 9 TD, 3 INT) and Kavika Johnson (18 of 30, 130 yards, TD) have seen action at quarterback as well. Aaron Jones is third on the Miners with 32 carries for 209 yards and a score while Darren Laufasa chips in 30 carries for 180 yards plus a touchdown. LaQuintus Dowell (62 carries, 276 yards, 2 TD) and Jeremiah Laufasa (81 carries, team high 301 yards, TD) have seen action as well with limited success. Jaquan White is second on the team with 35 receptions for 406 yards and seven scores; Hayden Plinke contributes a team leading 37 grabs for 405 yards while Autrey Golden has grabbed 19 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler Batson has 20 receptions for 370 yards and two touchdowns. Jay Mattox has hit all 20 extra points and 13 of 16 field goals on the season with a long of 50 yards.
Louisiana Tech is 6-1 ATS in their last seven after allowing less than 100 yards on the ground, 5-1 ATS in their last six on turf, 4-1 ATS in their last five in November and 17-7 ATS in their last 24 overall. UTEP is 4-10 ATS in their last 14 against teams with a winning record and 8-21 ATS in their last 29 after an ATS loss.
The Bulldogs are tied with Southern Miss for the top spot in the West Division of Conference USA right now. UTEP has been up and down all season and with Leftwich out of the lineup, it will be a step down at the quarterback position for the Miners. Look for Louisiana Tech to win this one rather convincingly as they get their fourth straight win.