UTEP vs. Jacksonville State kickoffs this Saturday at 5:30pm EST in Jacksonville as a home game for the Gamecocks. Jacksonville State is currently a +1 underdog and -107 on the moneyline while the total is set at 54. Read on for more UTEP vs. Jacksonville State best bets and predictions as this game is littered with question marks.
UTEP Vs. Jacksonville State Prediction & Best Bet
After a dominant 2022 campaign, Jacksonville State now joins the Conference USA and faces off against UTEP for their season opener. Expectations are high, even amidst tougher conference competition. Most teams go through a transition phase when joining a new conference, yet oddsmakers have had this as a near pick’em since the open. Even with a lethal offense, it’s worth it to wait and see how their quality of play looks before making any sort of bet backing them.
As for the tight line, that comes as no surprise as the Gamecocks are loaded with talent on the offensive end. An offense that just came off a remarkable year, ranking 27th in Off Success Rate and a ground game that finished 13th in the same category. They seemingly rattled off big plays at an impressive rate, ranking top-10 in both Rush and Pass play Explosiveness.
That same type of downfield attack will be called again this season with quarterback Zion Webb manning the helm. While the Gamecocks threw the ball at one of the lower rates in football, Webb will have quality opportunities to move the ball down the field with opposing secondaries having to stack the box out of respect for the ground game.
Speaking of UTEP’s defense, it was hit or miss for this unit as they had varying contrast results. On one hand, they excelled at limiting the ground game as they ranked above average in Def Rush Explosiveness and 69th in Success Rate. On the other hand, they ranked near dead last in Def Pass Explosiveness and Success Rate. With their secondary being decimated with only one starter returning and they may be in for a long night against Webb and company.
UTEP Vs. Jacksonville State Odds
As mentioned earlier, oddsmakers have this as about as tight as you can make it. They opened the Gamecocks as a +1 underdog and that number has stayed firm since the opener. Even with question marks surrounding the Miners defense, they return a front six that can slow down the JSU ground game and dare Webb to throw at a higher rate at their inexperienced secondary. A play style that we rarely saw from them last season.
As for the total, this market has been absolutely pounded since the opening number. Originally opening at 49.5, bettors have been adamant on betting the over and have forced this total to climb to as high as 54 as of writing. This has gone too far for my liking, making an under a potential play should this hit 55.
UTEP Vs. Jacksonville State Key Matchups
Can UTEP take advantage of the Gamecocks inability to defend pass play Explosiveness? Who fills in for Anwar Lewis?
Tyrin Smith vs JSU secondary
After dipping his toes in the transfer portal, stud wide receiver Tyrin Smith returns to the program and gives the UTEP offense an instant boost in the pass game. He finished last season with 1,039 yards and seven touchdowns, hauling in 71 receptions. Averaging an astonishing 14.6 yards per reception.
This Gavin Hardison to Tyrin Smith connection is special pic.twitter.com/VgUIHF6D8z
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 1, 2022
His downfield presence will be called on early and often for the UTEP offense as they get the benefit of burning a JSU secondary that ranked near dead last in Off Pass Explosiveness. Relying on big plays is never an ideal strategy in the long run and brings in too much variance for my liking when making any sort of wager in this game.
Ron Wiggins vs UTEP rush defense
Expected to be a feature back for the Gamecocks, Anwar Lewis’ name is nowhere to be found on the depth chart heading into week zero. That leaves Ron Wiggins to step up after finishing last season with 60 carries for 461 yards and four touchdowns.
A tough task for his first stint as the feature back as UTEP did a respectable job at limiting the ground game. It’s vital Wiggins finds success in an effort to open up the pass game or else this JSU offense will sputter down the field. Should Wiggins not skip a beat and consistently churn out productive runs, then a live addition on their moneyline may be in order with an advantage on the defensive end as well.