November 23, 2019. That is the last time New Mexico State played against a non-FCS school. Taking the 2020 season off and electing to play two spring games against Tarleton State and Dixie State. That will have an impact on the New Mexico State football team. They have to bump off the rust to get ready for the season opener versus their rival University of Texas El Paso (UTEP).
The Battle for I-10 has been around for 104 years. While New Mexico State has won the last three games of the series, UTEP owns the overall series at 57-38-2. Will New Mexico State add one more to their streak, or will UTEP take home the Silver Spade to snap the three-game skid? The long two-year wait has come to an end as we break down the best bets of the Battle for I-10.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Let us face it. UTEP has not looked great lately against New Mexico State. Losing three straight, head coach Dana Dimel has not beaten New Mexico State in his two years at UTEP. Losing by 7 points in his first year and 8 points in his second, Dana Dimel has been as close as he can to winning this game. The good news is UTEP’s offense has gotten better with Dimel at the helm. Sophomore QB Gavin Hardison enters his second season as the starter. With 11 offensive starters returning, UTEP has a lot of experience. Lead rusher Deion Hankins put up nine scores last year. They also are returning 5 of their 6 top wide receivers.
UTEP has also improved on the defensive side of the ball. Second-team All-C-USA defensive end Praise Amaewhule tallied seven sacks last year. Amaewhule will lead the defensive line that returns all four starters. The talent on this side of the ball will make it hard for the New Mexico State Aggies to move the line of scrimmage. This will force the Aggies to throw the football, which could cause issues for the team that has yet to declare a starting quarterback for this rivalry game.
Coach Doug Martin has not decided on a starter yet. Narrowing down the choice between freshman Weston Egt and turn-over-prone junior Jonah Johnson. In the two games they played against FCS schools, Jonah threw 1 TD and 3 INT. This doesn’t look good for a team that will have to rely heavily on their offense after averaging giving up almost 500 yards of offense to two FCS schools. Expect to see New Mexico State rely heavily on running backs Juwuan Price and transfer O’Maury Samuels to try and get some work done on offense and keep their defense off the field.
This game feels like it’s just leaning in favor of UTEP all the way. No 2020 season for New Mexico State. UTEP is returning their entire offense. Their defensive line will cause issues for the New Mexico State running game, and New Mexico State still doesn’t know who is going to be starting at QB. New Mexico State is giving up a lot of yards on defensive. This seems like the perfect storm for UTEP to snap their losing streak and take back the Silver Spade. Don’t get me wrong, I still think UTEP wins less than six games this year, but they are currently better positioned in the season.
Pick: UTEP -9 (-110)
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