2022 UTEP Miners Preview

by Matt Fargo

UTEP Miners

2021-22 Season Record 7-6 (4-4 C-USA West) - 8-5-0 ATS - 8-5-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 7
Defense - 8

Overview

UTEP entered C-USA in 2005 in the second year of former head coach Mike Price and put together an 8-4 record and a second consecutive bowl game but it has been a struggle since then. The Miners followed that up with eight straight losing seasons, seven under Price and one with his replacement Sean Kugler before a winning season in 2014 but that did not last as UTEP strung together six more losing seasons before going 7-6 last season in the fourth year with Dana Dimel on the sidelines. It did result in another bowl loss as the Miners have gone 0-7 in the postseason since their last bowl win in 1967 and there is confidence to break that skid in 2022. 15 starters are back along with a solid No. 51 ranking in returning production and after a 5-27 start at UTEP, Dimel needs another winning season to likely keep his job as the 1-5 finish tarnished what could have been a really solid year.

Offense

The offense has increased its production each of the last four seasons but it has been nothing short of below average as the Miners finished No. 72 in total offense and No. 89 in scoring offense and there is work to be done. UTEP wanted to open up the offense more and it did just that but with it came a lack of consistency which needs to improve this season. Quarterback Gavin Hardison put up some good numbers as he threw for 3,223 yards with 18 touchdowns but he also tossed 13 interceptions while completing just over 55 percent of his passes. This had a lot to do with the Miners converting just 31.7 percent of their third down opportunities which was No. 124 in the country. The receiving corps will have a makeover with the two top players gone which will put some pressure on the running game behind leading rusher Ronald Awatt and an offensive line that is one of the best in the conference.

Defense

The defense kept UTEP in games early in the season which led to its 6-1 start as it allowed 19.3 ppg during this stretch and then completely imploded down the stretch. After a five-game run of allowing 288 or fewer yards, UTEP gave up an average of 435.2 ypg in its last five games and finished No. 29 in total defense and No. 53 in scoring defense. The Miners are in good position to have another strong defense but cannot fade down the stretch with eight starters back including both linebackers as Breon Hayward and Tyrice Knight were the two leading tacklers that combined for 210 stops and will again be the backbone of this unit. The entire defensive line returns as well and has to do a better job of getting to the quarterback after registering only 25 sacks last season, No. 82 in the country. This will additionally help out the secondary that has to replace three of five starters.

2022 Season Outlook

UTEP will be out to put together consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 17 years and will have to do so by drowning out the finish from last year. This is a veteran team that knows it can win and is staring at a favorable schedule late in the season which can help avoid another collapse. The Miners start the season with its C-USA opener at home against North Texas and a win could go a long way. They head to Oklahoma after that before a pair of winnable games against New Mexico St. and New Mexico before closing out nonconference action against Boise St. The next six games are all against teams projected to win fewer than six games and that is where it has to take advantage before closing the season at UTSA. The O/U win total is set at 5.5 and the Miners will be favored in at least five games with road games against Charlotte and Louisiana Tech going either way. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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