Breakdown: UTEP

Mike Taylor (Matt Fleming/12)

Looking to jump start its offense before the beginning of what looks to be a challenge conference schedule, Wisconsin hosts Texas-El Paso Saturday morning at Camp Randall Stadium. Badger Nation looks at the matchup.

UTEP (1-2, 0-0 Conference USA) vs. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, September 22 at 11 a.m. CT

Stadium –Camp Randall Stadium (80,321/FieldTurf)

Television - ESPN2 (Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway and Lewis Johnson)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – First meeting

Last week's Badger Nation game coverage

Series Notes

The game will be just the second for UTEP against a Big Ten Conference team. The Miners fell to No. 15 Iowa, 69-7, on Sept. 27, 1986.

Wisconsin is 2-1 all-time against Conference USA, dating back to the league's founding in 1995. UW's only loss was a 17-12 setback at Cincinnati in 1999.

The Badgers are 2-0 at home against C-USA teams, defeating Cincinnati in 2000 and Marshall in 2008 at Camp Randall Stadium.

UW interim offensive line coach Bart Miller faced the Miners three times while playing at New Mexico, with the Lobos going 1-2 against UTEP. Miller also was a graduate assistant at New Mexico State in 2010, when UTEP scored a 42-10 win over the Aggies.

Badgers LB Josh Peprah and UTEP DL Justin Cordova both hail from McKinney, Texas, but attended different high schools.

UTEP senior DB Drew Thomas and Wisconsin junior LB Ethan Armstrong were teammates at Ottawa Township High School in Chicago.

Wisconsin Notes

In non-conference play, Wisconsin rides a 25-game home win streak into Saturday's game. The Badgers' last loss to a non-conference foe at Camp Randall came in a 23-5 loss to UNLV on Sept. 13, 2003.

Wisconsin is 41-3 in home games since Bielema became coach in 2006. The only three teams to win road games at Camp Randall Stadium in that span all went to BCS bowls (Ohio State and Penn State in 2008 and Iowa in 2009).

Through two games, Wisconsin's defense is allowing just 82.0 rushing yards per game, which ranks 17th nationally.

Led by senior Mike Taylor's average of 12.0 tackles per game, Wisconsin's starting linebackers are averaging 26.0 stops this season, placing them in a tie with Penn State for the Big Ten's second-most productive linebacking corps.

During UW's 18-game home win streak, the Badgers have scored an average of 45.8 points per game while holding opponents to an average of 14.1 — an average margin of victory of 31.7.

Wisconsin is 12-13 under head coach Bret Bielema when trailing at halftime. Of those 12 comeback victories, four have been when the Badgers are trailing by at least 10 points.

Through three games, Wisconsin's defense is allowing 15.0 points per game, a mark that ranks the Badgers fourth in the Big Ten and 27th nationally. UW is 29-1 under Bret Bielema when holding teams to 15 points or fewer.

Texas-El Paso Notes

UTEP is 18-18 in non-conference games under Mike Price (includes three bowls) and 6-10 in road non-conference games.

Through the games of Sept. 15, UTEP held national top-50 statistical rankings in net punting (18th, 40.6 avg.), turnover margin (tied for 24th, 1.00), punt returns (33rd, 13.8 avg.) and sacks (tied for 42nd, 2.3 avg.).

UTEP's 101-man roster includes 21 seniors, 17 juniors, 22 sophomores and 41 freshmen (10 redshirts/31 true freshmen). UTEP has 43 returning lettermen (20 offense/20 defense/three special teams).

UTEP's offense showed progress in the red zone against the Aggies, scoring four times for 27 points in five trips. The Miners produced just three points in their first four red zone trips of the 2012 campaign.

After failing to come up with an interception in the first two games of the year, UTEP picked off a pass in the first series against NM State. The Miner defense hadn't been interception-less through two contests since 1985 when they failed to record an INT during the first three tilts.

UTEP is vying to keep four straight opponents under 30 points for the first time since a five-game stretch early in 2010 and for the fourth time overall under Price. The Miners peeled off seven straight such contests in 2004 while stringing together four in a row in 2004.

Prediction

From the stats below, name which numbers belong to which offense:

Total offense: 276.0 (116th in the country) vs. 351.0 (94th)

Rushing offense: 119.7 (94th) vs. 140.3 (82nd)

Passing offense: 156.3 (114th) vs. 210.7 (85th)

Passing efficiency: 121.1 (92nd) vs. 122.2 (91st)

Scoring offense: 16.3 ppg (113th) vs. 19.3 (106th)

Guesses? For those of you who said Wisconsin was the second team, I hate to tell you that you are wrong. Yep, Wisconsin's offense is getting outperformed in three games by UTEP, and the Miners have played two BCS schools, one of whom was ranked in the top five. Just goes to show you how far the Badgers have fallen away from their style.

Maybe we finally know why. On the show BTN Live, Montee Ball said the Badgers weren't practicing hard early on. Huh? What? It's evident that something wasn't right after the way Wisconsin struggled in the opener, and the UW players admitted that they didn't have a good week of practice. But if that has continued, that's on the captains, including Ball, for not pointing the ship back into the right direction.

With that having said, there is still time plenty of time to get things right, especially on the offense line and especially this week. The Wisconsin running attack has been stalled all season long and the Badgers started to get their groove back last week with Bart Miller running the show. UW opened up more alleys for Ball to allow him to go one-on-one with defenders. Now the key is for UW to be better in short-yardage situations and Ball has to be better taking on blockers.

UTEP is allowing 215.7 rushing yards per game, 106th in the country. If UW can't run against the Miners, there are serious issues.

Wisconsin should be fine defensively if they can defend the wheel route. According to one offensive scout player I talked to, UW's scout team was dominating the first-team and second-team defense earlier this week and they were doing it with the wheel route. If I am UTEP, I am going to run that route until I am blue in the face, as five of the six touchdowns UW has given up this year have been on some variation of the wheel route. Seriously, it shouldn't be that hard to adjust a coverage.

Somehow, Wisconsin is 16.5-point favorites for this game. I'm interested in what redshirt freshman Joel Stave can do in his first career start and I am intrigued with how long this move is going to last. Will we see O'Brien at all this weekend? Will we ever see Curt Phillips? There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered.

I see the Badgers winning this game for these reasons: UTEP has played before crowds of 80,000 or more just four times historically, and crowds of 70,000 or more eight times. UTEP is 0-8 in those games. UTEP is 8-20 in day games under Price, including 6-16 on the road. The Miners are 3-15 in day games away from El Paso since 2006 and are 0-16 against BCS foes all-time.

Wisconsin is the better team on paper for the fourth straight games. Let's see if they finally play like it.

Wisconsin 31, UTEP 17

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 2-1

Against the Spread: 1-1

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