While Western and Charlotte are scheduled to play on Tuesday, December 1st at 9:30 central 1 CUSA is down to just the two games today. Both are in South Texas. UTEP is traveling to Houston to play Rice, and North Texas is taking a bus (busses) down south to San Antonio.
It is almost like they folded the state in half. Left plays right, top plays bottom.
UTEP at Rice
The Miners are in the middle of another terrible season. The offense is bad — again. UTEP has been in the bottom half — and often near the bottom three — of the league in scoring offense since 2013, when the current iteration of this league was formed. Yes, even with Aaron Jones toting the rock, the Miners had trouble scoring with consistency. 2
This season is more of the same. Gavin Hardison is leading the pass game, but he hasn’t been overly impressive. The Miners only scored 17 vs ACU, but have improved in conference play, averaging 22 per game.
Rice looks to have picked up where they left off at the end of last year. They had to wait nearly a month — it seems like every league team had to do so at one point — before playing. They dropped a tough one to Middle in OT, beat up a struggling USM, then lost to NT after the run game was stuffed by the league’s worst defense and blew a 10-point first quarter lead.
There is a lot to like on the Rice team — Mike Collins threw for 300+ yards and the run game is potent. Juma Otoviano did not play vs NT and so the Owls can feel confident if he’s back vs UTEP.
The Owls are favored by 12 in this one and that feels right. No one in this league is that much better than anyone else — especially with the virus mangling depth charts. So that is the hope I can give you if you are the Miners. That, and the fact that UTEP played UTSA pretty close to start things last week.
North Texas vs UTSA
MGN has the longer, more thorough, UNT-centric preview but remember this is a rivalry. Back in 2013, UTSA went up to Denton in November and beat North Texas to end the Mean Green hopes for a division title (Rice went on to win the league after upsetting Marshall). UTSA is just behind UAB in the race for the division lead this season and is feeling really confident in this surprising UTSA team.
The Roadrunners are more consistent on offense, and look to have solutions and ideas whereas the Frank Wilson teams had frustration and flailing. Health has helped UTSA in some regards — Frank Harris playing regularly means he gets to show his talent. Harris made a clutch play vs USM that was not usually made last season.
The defense is stout and has shown a knack for taking the ball away. If you have only watched the Texas State vs UTSA season opener, you have roughly seen the Roadrunners. They do give up some big plays but they get stops when they need them and make plays offensively through some talented skill positions.
Meanwhile in Denton, Seth Littrell’s league-best offense is overshadowed by the nation’s worst defense. NT has impressed defensively against both Middle and Rice (8 TFLs vs Middle, 12 vs Rice) but did allow 35 to the Blue Raiders. UTSA’s offense is not particularly explosive — although they did destroy the Miners in the second half last game. Expect some of both of the recent developments from these two teams: North Texas gets some stops in some places but UTSA is able to get big plays and big run lanes at times.
UTSA is favored by just 2.5, and the line was at -5 to open this week. Of the two games, this has the potential to see lots of talent go off and shin: Jaelon Darden, Joshua Cephus, the entire NT running back stable, Sincere McCormick and both QBs, Jason Bean and Frank Harris.