1. I heard UTEP's head coach on the radio a couple of times this week and he sounded like he is just praying they keep it close. Is that what the fan base feels as well?
I don't think anyone is praying to keep it close. Sean Kugler is a very confident guy that has played and coached at multiple levels. Playing at Arkansas isn't something that scares him. That said, I also don't think he's entering the contest expecting to win. I think there are still a lot of unknowns with this team, and the biggest victory for him would be to see his team answer those questions, play sound fundamental football, and just stay healthy. If they are able to just take care of their assignments and minimize their mistakes then the keeping it close part will take care of itself.
2. Give me two guys to look out for on UTEP. One offense and one defense.
The obvious choice on offense is Aaron Jones, but I think one that people will really need to look out for Autrey Golden. The guy's a spark plug and one of the best returners in the nation, and if the Miners are going to be competitive it will take more than just handing it off to Jones. Golden is that guy that will be split out, or put in the slot, and should find himself getting plenty of touches. He's a playmaker.
Defensively, I'd look out for middle linebacker Jimmy Musgrave. The guy's career started at Oregon. He had a few offers from smaller schools, but chose to walk on for the Ducks. He was one of only two or three guys out of dozens of walk ons that actually made the team. He just a high motor guy that loves to just get into the mix on every play. Look for him to be flying around on that side of the ball.
3. How good do you guys think this UTEP team will be this year? (Pro tip: Watch out for that Raider Rash when you head to Lubbock next week. It's best to get vaccinated)
Will do on the vaccination. No, but on a serious note, as mentioned before there are just a ton of unknowns with this team right now. I think they will be good, and continue to build on what was started last year, but how good they will be is still yet to be seen. There will be, in my opinion, a number of tests throughout the year. Not just the name opponents, but some of the smaller teams as well that can typically be letdown games. If we can avoid those, the schedule sets up pretty nice for this team to go out and win 7, 8, maybe 9 games. Again though, at this point the jury is still out.
4. Tell us something about UTEP that Hogs fans won't hear about in the media this week. (Cool fact, famous people, certain tradition, make it as creative as you want)
Well this one is kind of tough, but UTEP is known around the state as a commuter school, and is starting become more of destination for Texas kids wanting their own oasis to get away from their hometowns and is making its way to a TIER One status on the academic part. UTEP definitely has produced a number of different successful people and celebrities, but I'd say the one that comes to mind right away is the tricep himself, Ed Hochuli. He's obviously made a name for as a referee in the NFL, but he actually played at UTEP back in the late 60s into the early 70s.
5. I would be remiss if I did not thank UTEP for helping produce Nolan Richardson. Are there any Nolan stories/legends about him that Hog fans may not have heard?
Don't really have any stories or legends about Nolan Richardson, but the guy has done a ton for the community here in El Paso, on and off the basketball court. The only story I can talk about is the first time I interviewed him. In fact, I won't talk about it because it was somewhat of a mess. Got a little nervous, and probably sounded it too, but hey I was a 20 something talking to a hall of fame and national championship winning coach.
I think this coaching staff realizes that they'll have to mix it up to keep this thing even remotely close. Sticking to the plain vanilla will allow Arkansas to load the box, key on Jones, and essentially shut our offense down. That said, I'd expect them to open things up and take some chances early. Assuming we can make a play or two, I think this will be a close game for a quarter or so. The Hogs will likely open it up from there, and we'll get one or two late. I think this one will end up somewhere in the range of 42-17.