Every week has been a challenge for the UTEP football team with each week being a little more difficult than the last. For the most part, the Miners have faced those challenges head on. Despite not winning every game, they have shown progress.
This week is no different as UTEP travels to Madison, WI to face the Wisconsin Badgers and standout running back Montee Ball.
And for obvious reasons, he is the number one challenge for the Miners.
If UTEP is going to win at Wisconsin this weekend, it will have to begin with needing to stop one of the best running backs in college football. That is no small task. As it stands right now, Ball has 53 career touchdowns, 16 shy of the all-time record, while having amassed 3,630 yards rushing to date.
The Miners will need to bring the run defense to Madison this Saturday. UTEP has allowed 5.5 yards per rush against their first three opponents this season with an average of 216.3 yards total rushing yards , while allowing three rushing touchdowns. Ball has averaged 3.8 yards per rush, 106.7 yards per game and has 2 touchdowns against Wisconsin's first three opponents.
Although the run defense of UTEP has gotten penetration and caused seven total sacks on the year and caused 12 quarter back hurries, it is going to take an effort like fans saw against Oklahoma, a total team effort, if the Miners plan on stopping Ball.
Let's say the Miners do stop Ball. That would be great, but there are still other challenges the Miners face.
Their next big challenge comes in the form of Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Joel Stave, who took over in the second half last week against Utah St. He was named the starter this week and while he doesn't have a lot of playing time, the Badgers are 46 for 77 on the season with one interception and have scored three touchdowns through the air averaging 156.3 yards per game.
UTEP's opponents have gone 57 for 106 with one interception and scored eight touchdowns in the air against the Miners with amassing a 239.3 yards per game average. Many of these came as a result of the deep ball.
A lot of these numbers are out of whack for UTEP's passing defense due to the second half against NMSU, where the Aggies took to the air the whole half. All in all, the Miners pass defense has been ok.
With the Miners hosting Oklahoma and going on the road to Oxford to face Ole Miss, UTEP has faced tough competition in tough situations and come out of it fairly well.
To go to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday should not be that much of a shock and not bother them as much as it would have had they not had these experiences already this season. This is where the early challenges of the season should pay off and help with this game.
That being said, we all know Monte Ball will get his carries and his yards this weekend. The question is, will the Miners be able to keep him out of the end zone and if they can, will UTEP have the formula for an upset?
Chad Middleton, also the producer for KROD's SportsTalk, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at @600chadESPN. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.