Can UTEP's Out of Conference Slate Get Them A W?

It can't get worse for UTEP than it did in 2017 unless the 2018 schedule includes a meteor strike or spontaneous combustion. The Miners will be full of new beginnings this fall, new coach, new staff, new quarterback, and new optimism. Let's look at their September to see what all that new stuff might deliver. 

Northern Arizona, September 1

Case Cookus - Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images North America

The Lumberjacks aren't pushovers by any stretch. They qualified for the FCS playoffs out of the competitive Big Sky last season. NAU quarterback Case Cookus is a Walter Payton Award (the FCS Heisman) contender. He's also the only quarterback we're aware of that's been ejected for targeting. 

at UNLV, September 8

UNLV hired a high school coach to run their program three years ago, and the unorthodox move might be paying off in 2018. The Rebels can run the football with a line that averages 320 pounds blocking for two back that averaged more than six yards a carry last year. Quarterback Armani Rogers is talented, and at 6-5, 225 helps in the run game as well. 

at Tennessee, September 15

The national media is buying into first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt's narrative that the Vols are a couple of years away from competing in the SEC. But this is a program that's a year removed from nine wins and recruited at a top 20 level for the past four years. Plus 100,000 slack-jawed yokels will be waiting for the Miners in Neyland Stadium.

New Mexico State, September 22

The Aggies broke UTEP eight-game winning streak last season with a dominant win in Las Cruces. This season the Aggies must replace the best quarterback you never heard of (Tyler Rogers) and the best running back no one in Texas recruited (Larry Rose). Even with a historic bowl trip in 2017, the Aggies have a lot make up for in 2018. 

In an optimal world, UTEP finishes non-conference 2-2 with wins over the Lumberjacks and the Aggies. NAU won't be a pushover, but UTEP should be able to take care of business and whether the Aggies have built up enough depth to withstand their loss of production is a legitimate question. But let's be honest, even a 1-3 finish is an improvement a 2017 season Miner fans would rather forget. 

The Roundup...