With both teams trying to gain footing early in the 2023 season, UTEP is visiting Arizona this Saturday (9/16/23). Get UTEP vs. Arizona odds, predictions, and best bets below as our best bet is under 56.5 points.
UTEP vs. Arizona Prediction & Best Bet
So far, UTEP has failed to build on a decently promising 2022 season and a bowl-bound 2021 campaign. Last year saw them suffer some close losses, and a nice win over Group of Five standard-setters Boise State, so there was some optimism coming into this year, but it may have been unwarranted. So far, they’ve beaten only FCS squad Incarnate Word, who just lost their entire coaching staff to Texas State, and that game was a relatively competitive 28-14 contest as it was tied until midway through the third quarter.
UTEP’s two losses are pretty dismal as well; they lost to Jacksonville State in their first game since moving up to Conference USA from the FCS in an ugly 17-14 ballgame. Most recently, they lost to Northwestern in a 38-7 drubbing, a profoundly embarrassing result against possibly the worst Power Five squad in the country. Luckily, they’re going up against an Arizona team that has their own fair share of questions ahead of starting up conference play following this game.
Arizona picked up five wins last season, including a win by one field goal against FCS juggernaut North Dakota State and another by the same margin against rivals Arizona State. There wasn’t much reason for any more optimism coming into this season, in which so far they’ve beaten FCS Northern Arizona, and lost in overtime to a very questionable Mississippi State team.
Both teams struggled to maximize talent due in large part to turnover issues. UTEP running back Deion Hankins is doing nicely as the full-time starter, as he’s put up 5.5 yards per carry this season after splitting carries last season. Miners quarterback Gavin Hardison is lucky enough to have an NFL prospect as his top wideout, but has thrown four picks in just three games, and backup Jake McNamara turned the ball over on one of his five pass attempts.
Arizona’s Jayden De Laura is also surrounded by decent weapons, but has a highly troubling five interceptions in only two contests. Even with a decent amount of playmakers in this game, it’s impossible to bet on scoring with quarterbacks who have no ability to hang onto the ball.
I’m a fan of the under, as it’s hard to imagine these teams putting together sustained drives enough times to each score in the high 20’s. As for the spread, 17.5 is too high of a number to invest in Arizona, especially with the half-point hook, but it’s also hard to say that UTEP will be competitive on the road; I just wouldn’t touch this line.
UTEP vs. Arizona Prediction & Best Bet: Under 56.5
UTEP vs. Arizona Betting Odds
UTEP is a big underdog with a +17.5 line, and -105 odds to cover compared to -115 for Arizona. The total is set at 56.5, with -110 odds on either side.
UTEP vs. Arizona Key Matchups
With offensive talent on both sides, but lots of struggles nonetheless, let’s take a look at how some major contributors stack up with each other.
Jayden DeLaura vs. Jayden DeLaura
You didn’t read the header wrong- the player most likely to get in DeLaura’s way is himself. DeLaura’s turnover problem isn’t new; he tossed 13 interceptions last season, as the transition from QB-friendly Washington State appeared to take a serious toll on him. This season, there was some hope that a year in the system would provide him with some increased comfortability, but that has not been the case as he’s thrown an insane five in just two games, one against Northern Arizona and the rest against Mississippi State, including one on each of the Wildcats’ first three drives.
It’s concerning to say the least that rather than turning around, his turnover rate has skyrocketed from “fairly troubling” to “Josh Allen in a big game.” Obviously it’s early, and a small sample size, but this is a serious issue that needs to be corrected immediately before things get out of hand. The reason that DeLaura’s matchup is against himself is that UTEP’s defense isn’t his biggest hurdle; if he’s anything close to his best, they won’t slow him down. He just has to get out of his own way, make good decisions, and flash the talent that made him a high-end four star prospect coming out of high school, with a grade of 90 from 247.
Tyrin Smith vs. Arizona Secondary
It’s not too common for a skill player out of a program like UTEP to generate NFL buzz, but that’s exactly what Tyrin Smith has done over the past year. Despite very mediocre (at best) quarterback play for UTEP last year, Smith caught 71 passes for 1,039 yards and seven touchdowns, all in just 12 games as UTEP did not make a bowl. To put that into perspective, Smith secured almost half of UTEP’s air touchdowns for the year, as Miners passers only threw for 15 all year. To say that he will be the top priority for Arizona’s defense is technically true, but an enormous understatement.
Arizona’s secondary has not been a strength, ranking exactly 100th in PFF’s ranks to start the year. Martell Irby has been a great story, coming back to the sport after retiring due to personal issues; he’s earned an excellent 85 coverage grade from PFF, albeit in relatively few snaps. Nobody else has a grade over 65, with cornerback Tacario Davis topping all full-time players with a number of 64.8. It’ll take a team effort to slow down Smith, and it’s hard to say that Arizona is up to it.