Although the Utah football team wishes it were 5-0 right now instead of 4-1, they are happy about their loss to Utah State for one reason - it keeps them from looking past any opponent.
The Utes might be ripe for such a situation this week, playing UTEP a week after defeating 20th-ranked Kansas and moving into the Top 25 themselves at No. 24. The Miners are perennially one of the worst programs in America with seven straight losing seasons and a 16-63-2 record during that time.The Utes and Miners kick it off Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Sun Bowl.
"You've got to be worried about a game like this," said Ute coach Ron McBride. "We can't get too full of ourselves and think we're good. We always have trouble with those guys down there and we'll see them at their best."
"There won't be a letdown," said receiver Rocky Henry. "We have to act like we're playing another ranked team. They have a good defense and they'll be ready."
Looking past the Miners could be especially dangerous this year because, well, the Miners really aren't that bad.
They come into the game 2-2 overall, fresh off a 37-6 thrashing of Northern Illinois on the road. Earlier they also defeated New Mexico State, lost to San Jose State by one point and kept it respectable in a 23-3 road loss to Arizona to open the season.
The Miners rank No. 1 in the WAC in total defense, No. 1 in passing defense and No. 2 in rushing defense. In allowing just 271.5 yards a game, the Miners rank No. 18 in the nation in defense.
Leading the way defensively is senior middle linebacker Michael Comer, who has 41 tackles, including five for loss, nose tackle Phillip Hippolyte, who also has five tackles for loss and cornerback David Terrell, who has 34 tackles and an interception.
On offense, the Miners rely on a running game led by Joseph Polk, who has rushed for 346 yards in four games with one touchdown. The quarterback situation is up in the air with senior Leonard Lilja questionable for this week with a bruised knee. He was replaced in the Northern Illinois game by sophomore Matt Hickl, who set a school completion record with 11 of 13 completions for 106 yards and also ran for two scores.
"We need to try to control the tempo of the game with our running game," said UTEP coach Charlie Bailey. "We're going to have to come up with some big plays in order to win."