North Texas is about to make a huge jump next season to join the AAC, which is a massive step for this school and program, even if the conference is losing some of its bigger schools. Seth Littrell will be tasked with taking Mean Green football into its next era. Littrell was a hot name on the coaching carousel when he had two straight nine-win seasons in 2017 and 2018, but has since seen those fires cool off with three straight losing seasons. He's known for having a great offense, and he at least got to bowl games in five of his six seasons at the helm. He did somehow manage to lose all five of those bowl games, but, hey, he at least got there.
This year, North Texas should be the team to beat as other teams in the conference jump for the Sun Belt. They still have a decently tough schedule overall, but it is nothing that they shouldn't be able to handle. This is Year 7 for Littrell, and he needs to have his team win a bowl game right now.
Somehow, UTEP was really good in 2021 and they captured the hearts of college football fans everywhere with their underdog spirit. They went 5-27 in three seasons under head coach Dana Dimel, and all of the sudden emerged as one of the better teams in the conference. Their seven wins and a bowl appearance in 2021 was the best season they have had since 2014, and the team won two more games in one year than it did over the previous four combined. It has been a long time coming, but it appears as though the Miners are back in action. They haven't been able to ever sustain their success, but who knows, maybe this time will be different.
This year’s team is loaded with stars from 2021, they have even more depth, and now they know what it’s like to win football games and how great that feels. With a slew of teams leaving the conference for the warmer waters of the AAC, this could be the year that allows UTEP to grab the bull by the horns and establish the program as one of the best in the conference moving forward. They have an opportunity here to completely change the narrative of their school from loser to perennial winner.
Just having back-to-back winning seasons I think would be pretty satisfying to me if I was a Miners fan.
This game is a toss-up at -1 in favor of the Mean Green right now. Both of these teams should enjoy success this season if everything on paper goes to plan, but for now, I'll take the point with UTEP at home because I love their story and this game is so close. With no data on these teams in 2022 yet, I have to go on last year's numbers, so I like the Miners.