On the June 20th Miners Madness program, I predicted that the Miners would go 10-2 this season. Most people out there are much less optimistic in their predictions. Many frustrated Miners fans are simply hoping for a winning season. I will admit that my vision is always filtered through orange colored lenses, but I don’t think my 10-2 prediction is crazy. So, I thought I should explain how I came up with that prediction. We’ll take a look at the Miners’ schedule, game by game. One of the things I looked at was what I call my Modified Rankings. It is an average of the team’s 2009 NCAA Ranking in these four areas, Total Offense, Scoring Offense, Total Defense, and Scoring Defense. That ranking, from 2009, along with adjustments I make to reflect players gained or lost, coaching changes, and other factors are what I used to make my predictions. Here is the Modified Rankings of the teams of interest for the 2010 Miners’ season;
So. Miss. 47.75
The first game on the Miners’ schedule is Arkansas Pine Bluff. I don’t think I need to explain this win for the Miners. This should be a good game to get the season off on the right track. Also, it should be a great way to get mentally set for the next game, a tough game, against the Cougars in Houston.
So, let’s take a closer look at this second game of the season, UTEP at Houston. I have to begin with the fact that Houston will bring the country’s top rated offense from last season into this game. So, you have to give the edge to Houston’s offense. But, how much and in what way, will be important here. UTEP’s offense will probably be in the nation’s top twenty this season, too. And, although Houston will rack up the yardage, through the air, the Miners will bring a more balanced offensive attack. Donald Buckram, and the Miners’ offensive line will provide the Miners with the needed control of the clock to do two things. One, it will limit the possessions Houston has with which to score, and two, it will give the UTEP defense enough time off of the field to keep from being worn down by the Cougar’s offense.
That brings me to the defenses. Last season, Houston’s defense was ranked 111th. Of course, UTEP’s was right there with them at 110th. Houston is switching to a 3-4 defense this year, and UTEP is switching from the failed 3-3-5 defense of the past two years, to a more conventional 4-3 defense. Houston lost a lot of their top defensive players from last season, and I believe their defense may rank even worse at the end of this season than last. On the other hand, I believe UTEP’s defense will be much improved this season. I look for UTEP’s defense to be much better at stopping teams from being able to sustain long, time consuming, defense tiring, will breaking, drives. When this game is over, the Miners will be 2-0.
Next up on the Miners schedule will be NMSU. This game won’t be close. UTEP will do whatever it wants against the Aggies in the Sun Bowl.
The next game is against Memphis. This game has an interesting extra twist to it. It pits Mike Price’s, and his son Aaron Price’s offense, against Mike Price’s other son, Eric Price’s offense. Both sides will have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the other team’s offense. Memphis has an inexperienced new head coach, and a new coaching staff. I think there will be some signs of settling, or lack of, in this game. I think this one will be a comfortable UTEP win.
Then, the Miners take a bus ride to the Duke City for their next game. The Lobos have little in the way of offense to bring to the game, and an equally bad defense. The Miners will score early, and often. The Lobos’ offense will give the Miners’ defense a chance to settle in, and gain confidence under their new defensive coordinator.
Rice is simply horrible. I know, UTEP has trouble with Rice. I know, UTEP can never take any game for granted. Rice is horrible. After six games, I predict the Miners will be 6-0, and feeling pretty good about themselves.
We’ll take a look at the second half of the season, next time.