EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP is in uncharted waters this week as they look to take down Big Ten foe Northwestern on the road on Saturday.
The Miners are currently favored by 1.5 points over the Wildcats; in the program’s history, they’ve never been a favorite against a power conference opponent. They also haven’t beaten a Power Five team since they took down Ole Miss in the 1967 Sun Bowl.
Much has changed in the landscape of college athletics since that day 56 years ago, but simply put, this might be UTEP’s best chance to beat a Power Five program in school history. An offseason hazing scandal rocked the Wildcats program and led to the firing of longtime head coach Pat Fitzgerald. Interim head coach David Braun filled in during the Wildcats’ 24-7 loss to Rutgers in week one.
On top of that the Wildcats haven’t won a game on American soil since October of 2021 and have only won one game period in that span, on Aug. 27, 2022, over Nebraska in Dublin, Ireland.
In a way, UTEP will have won before they even step on the field at Northwestern; UTEP will receive $1.2 million in guarantee game money from Northwestern simply for playing the game. But entering the game favored to beat the Wildcats means the Miners want more than just cash.
The Miners have run the ball effectively this season and could have the athletes and offensive line to wear down Northwestern, which gave up 190 yards per game on the ground last year and 122 in their season-opening loss to Rutgers.
UTEP’s defense has allowed just 31 points in two games; Northwestern didn’t find the scoresheet in week one until the final minute of the game. All that said, this is still a Power Five team they’re playing and the Miners aren’t reading too much into all the reasons they’re favored to beat a Big Ten team on the road.
“I don’t think the favorite means much because there’s been a lot of favorites. We were favored against Jax State and we lost,” said UTEP cornerback Trez Moore. “It means nothing, we have to come to practice and work hard and go down and get the W. I believe we can do it 100%.”
Miners head coach Dana Dimel also didn’t read much into UTEP being favored by the Las Vegas oddsmakers and is instead focused on the schemes that will help UTEP win on the field.
Dimel said at his press conference on Monday that Northwestern’s defensive schemes are similar to what the Miners saw against Incarnate Word in their week two 28-14 win, in which they rushed for 329 yards. The personnel are likely at different levels, but Dimel thinks there could be some carryover for the UTEP offense, if they execute.
“Our only chance of winning is if we go play really good football because if we don’t, they’ll beat our pants off,” Dimel said. “Getting a road win would be huge for us and be really important.”
UTEP is just 4-14 on the road the last three seasons, with one of those wins coming just 45 minutes from campus at New Mexico State. Despite everything Northwestern is going through as a program, the Miners will still have to bring their “A” game to contend for a victory.
Kickoff in Evanston, Ill., is set for 1:30 p.m. MT on Saturday on the Big Ten Network.