It’s that time of year again, y’all. Get your grills, drink of choice and game day attire ready because football is back. Over the next several days, we all will be placed in a college football coma, and no one will complain about it. Vanderbilt and South Carolina kick us off Thursday, but on Saturday night, the Oklahoma Sooners will be opening up the season against the UTEP Miners.
Just a few opening game tidbits, the Sooners have not lost a road opener since 1968. In the Bob Stoops era, the Sooners are 11-2 in openers, not just road openers. The Miners and the Sooners have met two times previous to this, once in 2000 then again in 2002. The Sooners outscored them, 123-14.
Not much will change for this meeting. The Miners are a middle of the road CUSA team, they finished 2011 at 2-6 in conference play and 5-7 overall. They lost four of the final five games and are staring down an 0-2 start for 2012. Their first two games aren’t exactly the easiest road to go down, after Oklahoma they will play Ole Miss. Yes, I do realize I just said Ole Miss, but a bottom of the barrel SEC team is still not an easy task for a middle of the road CUSA team, especially in Oxford. This is the first time the Miners have opened with an FBS team since 2009, and now they are facing two, back-to-back.
What the Miners are working with:
They have a senior quarterback in Nick Lamaison, who threw for 1700 yards and just 12 touchdowns in 2011. The Miners total offense last season averaged 26 ppg and 360 ypg. Lamaison’s two biggest targets, Michael Edwards and Jordan Leslie combined for just 5 touchdowns, 1087 yards and 80 receptions. Their leading returning rusher, Nathan Jeffery, brings only 26 carries, 126 yards and 1 touchdown.
To the Miners credit, their defensive line should not be too bad. They return key players like DT Germard Reed and DE Greg Watkins. The major play makers on the defense are safety, DeShawn Grayson who had 67 tackles and LB Josh Fely, who had 61. On the other side of that coin, the Miners don’t have a very solid rushing defense. They allowed on average, 30 ppg and opponents averaged 190 yards on on the ground alone.
The Sooners will most likely use this game to establish a running game early on. Dom Whaley is returning and said to be 100% healthy, so expect to see a lot of carries out him. The Sooner DL took another blow on Wednesday with the announcement that DT Casey Walker might not play in the game on Saturday due to non-football related injuries. This may not present an issue in the non-conference games, but once the Sooners get to conference play, it will be a different story. We will hopefully have an update on Walker’s situation soon. With the size and speed of Oklahoma’s secondary, it will be a hard task for UTEP to get a step ahead. Tony Jefferson, Demontre Hurst, and Aaron Colvin are ready to step into defensive leader positions, and Jefferson in particular wants to continue on his interception streak; he picked off 4 passes last season in just as many games.
This should be an easy win for the Sooners, and if the game doesn’t take some unexpected turn, which has been known to happen to Oklahoma, look for several of the back-ups to make an appearance. The new guys need to get in as many reps as possible, due to the ever-dwindling depth chart.
The game is scheduled to air on Fox Sports Network with a 9:30 CST kick-off.