Week seven brings a special Thursday night showcase game for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Visiting Chapman Stadium will be the UTEP Miners, a squad that despite its scrappy play, enters at 1-5 and 0-2 in Conference USA.
TU boasts a 5-1 record, with a 3-0 mark in the conference. If the Golden Hurricane can leave with a victory, they will be the fourth FBS team in 2012 to become bowl-eligible, joining South Carolina, Oregon and Ohio.
UTEP might be 1-5, but that record might be a bit deceiving. The Miners have lost to the likes of Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, all of which by fewer than 20 points.
The Miners have been wildly inconsistent this season, seemingly lacking the ability to make a big play when they need it most. Quarterback Nick Lamaison has looked great at times, but has mostly struggled to find a rhythm. UTEP's kicking game has been a disaster, converting on only four out of 10 field goal attempts and missing two extra points. The Miners' only glimmer of hope is running back Nathan Jeffery. Jeffery ran for 177 yards against OU and 134 at ECU, but has struggled with injuries. He seems to be back and healthy, but last week he only managed 67 yards and it was obvious that SMU's defense keyed in on him. TU's defense would be wise to do the same, and make the inconsistent Lamaison beat them.
Losses to East Carolina and SMU have put UTEP behind the 8 ball. If they can't rebound and upset the Hurricane, a 0-3 C-USA start might be enough to eliminate the Miners from any hopes they might have of winning the conference.
As far as the Hurricane is concerned, the game plan should be simple: run the ball. UTEP has allowed over 200 yards per game on the ground this season, and TU averages 246 per game.
Speaking of the running game, TU has a chance to make history Thursday night. Running back Alex Singleton already has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season, and if he can score two more against UTEP, Singleton will tie Tarrion Adams and Michael Gunter for most in school history. Those two touchdowns would also move Singleton into seventh place on Conference USA's all-time list. With back-to-back home games, it's very likely Singleton will be able to accomplish those feats in front of the Hurricane faithful.
One of two UTEP teams is going to show up on Thursday night. TU will either face a team desperate for a win that will fight for its season, or a team that is tired of losing that has accepted its fate. Regardless, Tulsa has the talent advantage, coaching advantage and home field advantage.
When UTEP coach Mike Price was asked if his team would change anything up for the Hurricane, he said they would, but wouldn't say what.
"We'll save it (the game plan) until Thursday night when we unleash our new plan against Tulsa. It's hard to make changes with a few days of practice, but we're going to make some changes."
Price also said his team was "embarrassed" by the 57-28 stomping TU put on the Miners last year.
I say regardless of what Price unleashes or how embarrassed he might be, Thursday isn't going to go very well for his Miners.
I'm taking Tulsa, 38-20.