Week seven will be a short one for both UTEP and Tulsa, and in preparation for Thursday night's game against the Golden Hurricane, Miners' head coach Mike Price has his priorities in order as usual.
"The thing that's good about playing so quickly is we get to go on another trip, which is great because I'm collecting mileage points."
Okay, so perhaps he doesn't. But this isn't the first time Price hasn't exactly lit a fire under his squad before a big game this season. Prior to UTEP's home opener against Oklahoma, Price fired up the troops with this:
"It sounds simple, but what I'm hoping to see is for us to align properly and play with 11 players on the field all the time."
No mention of anything related to offense, defense or special teams. All the coach wanted was full participation.
What Price must realize, though, is his team is 1-5 and 0-2 in conference play, and it's going to take a lot more than full participation to take down the Hurricane.
While both teams will rely on each of those 11 players to execute Thursday night, this game will be decided by the big men in the trenches.
One of the key reasons behind Tulsa's 5-1 start is the play of its linemen. The TU offensive line has paved the way for the No. 11 rushing offense and the No. 12 scoring offense in the country. In addition to exceptional run-blocking, the Hurricane O-line has protected Cody Green with incredible consistency, only allowing four sacks in six games this season.
As impressive as Tulsa's offensive line has looked, the D-line might have them beat. TU leads all of FBS football in defensive sacks with 27 and has more than twice the number of sacks than the second place team in Conference USA (UCF with 13).
Meanwhile for UTEP, the offense hasn't been able to click this season. Through six games, the Miners have only managed to rush for three touchdowns and the offensive line has allowed 15 sacks.
Their defensive has had trouble controlling the line of scrimmage, allowing 202 rushing yards per game, while sacking the opposing quarterback fewer than twice per game.
Offensively, TU will look to make the most of its line advantage by ordering up a heaping helping of run plays. If Tulsa's O-line play the way they have been, fans can expect another 200-plus yard rushing performance.
Defensively, controlling the line of scrimmage will allow the Hurricane to bottle up Nathan Jeffery and the Miners' run game. Jeffery is UTEP's most explosive player and if TU's D-line can get penetration, it will force them to drop back and pass, something the Miners don't do well.
The big men up front rarely get the credit they deserve, but they'll be the difference-makers on Thursday night.