EL PASO, Texas - In the third week of the regular season the UTEP football team hosts I-10 rival New Mexico State. This is always the fan favorite, but never the most competitive game for the Miners. If you don't count the usual Football Championship Subdivision team UTEP plays, this is always the easiest game of the season.
This year should be no different for the UTEP-NM State game. If the Miners are healthy in all the right areas, this should be a trouncing. Yet, there are still some questions that need answers.
No. 1: Which Aggie football team will show up? This is not the easiest prediction to make. For the most part, the Aggies usually don't show up at all, but there are those rare occasions, such as back in 2008, where they came to play and won, by a point. In the last 10 years, the Aggies have won only three meetings between the two teams. As of the last three games, which have been UTEP wins, NMSU has scored no more than a touchdown in each contest.
No. 2: Who will be under center for the Aggies? Last season there was a heavy rotation between three different quarterbacks because of injuries and inconsistencies. During the Battle of I-10, starting quarterback Andrew Manley went down with knee injury that sidelined him for the entire season. This year he makes his faithful return and is likely to start for NMSU. Head coach DeWayne Walker said in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal that Manley was the clear-cut starter. But the sophomore is coming off a major knee surgery, nothing is certain until he gets through the first game of the season.
No. 3: Who will have the bigger game, the running backs or the wide receivers? This is the toughest prediction for me to make at the moment with how bad I'm expecting the NMSU defense to be. If I had to guess, head coach Mike Price will run the ball more than pass. He's going to want to put this away as quickly as possible and go looking for dinner (A little Program reference for you college football movie buffs). I'm calling it now, the Miners will put 250 yards rushing on the Aggies. Last year UTEP rushed for 185 yards but that was a sloppy game from an offensive line that was barely coming together. This season will be much different.
No. 4: Will this game make or break September for the Miners? Who knows where UTEP will be coming into the third week of the season. Going into the game undefeated at this point in the season is unlikely, but if the Miners can pull off a win at Ole Miss then the possibilities are endless. The Miners can easily come away from September with two, maybe even three wins, which would be a victory for most UTEP fans. This is still a toss up but I'm betting the Miners will be close to .500 at this point in the season. I can say this for a fact, they will come out of the NMSU game with at least one win, if that is all they get in September.
No. 5: What promotional item will UTEP hand out to the first 10,000 fans? My guess would be as good as yours. Here's hoping for another foam finger to add to the collection most of us have at this point in our lives. I figure, if I get enough of them, I can make a mattress out of a hundred or so. Seriously, who needs a memory foam mattress when you have UTEP promotional foam fingers stuff in between the sheets.
Sal Guerrero may be reached at reached at [email protected] or follow him via Twitter at @SalDGuerrero for all things UTEP sports. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.