UNT-UTEP prediction

North Texas tight end Jason Pirtle leaps over Southern Miss defensive back Camron Harrell during the Mean Green's win over the Golden Eagles last week. UNT will face UTEP on Saturday at Apogee Stadium.

UTEP at North Texas

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Apogee Stadium, Denton

Records: UNT 3-6, 2-3 Conference USA; UTEP 6-3, 3-2 Conference USA

Last game: UNT 38, Southern Miss 14; UTSA 44, UTEP 23

Last meeting: UNT 45, UTEP 43 (2020)

TV: ESPN+

What’s on the line?

UNT has gotten something going late in the season while winning consecutive games to keep its bowl hopes alive.

The Mean Green knew after falling to Liberty late last month that they would need to win their remaining games to finish the season 6-6 and be bowl eligible. UNT took a first step by beating Rice in overtime and followed up with a commanding win over Southern Miss.

Beating UTEP won’t be easy, but if UNT can pull it off, its season will really start to look up. The Mean Green will face Florida International after taking on the Miners. FIU is 1-8 and has lost eight straight.

The road to becoming bowl-eligible starts to look a whole lot easier if UNT can beat UTEP.

The Miners already have the six wins they need to get to a bowl but have lost two straight games. UTEP can get back on track and post a key win over another one of C-USA’s Texas teams if it can handle the Mean Green.

When UNT has the ball

UNT is coming off one of its better offensive outings of the season in its win over Southern Miss. The Mean Green scored 38 straight points against the Golden Eagles after falling behind 14-0.

UNT rushed for 321 yards, despite losing DeAndre Torrey to an injury in the first half. Freshmen running backs Isaiah Johnson and Ikaika Ragsdale stepped in and rushed for 119 and 112 yards, respectively.

UNT will look to build on that performance against UTEP. The Miners are allowing 23.0 points per game and have been strong against the run.

UTEP is allowing just 117.4 rushing yards per game.

When UTEP has the ball

UNT posted an encouraging performance in its win over Southern Miss last week, holding the Golden Eagles scoreless over the final three quarters.

Southern Miss managed just 229 total yards. UNT also returned two fumbles for touchdowns. Defensive end Grayson Murphy brought one fumble back 37 yards, while linebacker KD Davis returned another 43 yards late.

UNT will look to build on that performance against UTEP, which is averaging 24.7 points per game behind a balanced attack. Quarterback Gavin Hardison is throwing for 235.8 yards per game, while Ronald Awatt is rushing for 65.3.

Prediction

UNT enters its game against UTEP on a roll and has the homefield advantage at Apogee, where the Mean Green are typically tough to beat.

UNT is dealing with a host of injuries. That hasn’t mattered the last two weeks when the Mean Green have found a way to beat Rice and Southern Miss.

Building on that run with a win over UTEP won’t be easy. The Miners are a physical team that has far exceeded expectations already this season.

UTEP will also be motivated to get back on track after dropping its last two games.

This game will go down to the wire, but UNT will find a way to keep its bowl hopes alive.

Prediction: UNT 24, UTEP 21

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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