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UTEP-Northwestern 2023 Predictions

Will this finally be the week where those who pick the ‘Cats are correct?

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Following a less-than-anticipated showing in its debut, Northwestern football seeks a victory in America for the first time in nearly two years. The Wildcats’ Week Two foe might prove to be its best shot at erasing that streak in the Conference USA UTEP Miners. Our staff writers are somewhat bullish on NU doing just that, but some are still not convinced that the program’s loss streak will finally end.

Iggy Dowling: Northwestern 20, UTEP 17

The 693-day streak ends here. It would be really nice to have a proven run game to control this one from the beginning, but I think the ‘Cats will have enough threats through the air in A.J. Henning, Cam Johnson and (potentially healthy?) Bryce Kirtz. Someone will make a big play or two, and the Northwestern secondary looked good enough against Rutgers to trust that it won’t give up too many backbreaking plays. Then again, this UTEP team has played Incarnate Word before heading to Evanston, just like a certain 2022 team...

Bradley Locker: Northwestern 20, UTEP 13

The Miners aren’t a team to sleep on despite their non-Power Five conference status; they’re ranked 24th among all FBS teams in overall PFF grade through two games. Yet, I still think Northwestern is a more talented team than UTEP, especially with its skill position room and secondary. While turnovers were one of the major pitfalls of the Wildcats’ losses to lower-level opponents in 2022, David Braun and Mike Bajakian could employ a more conservative gameplan, relying on Cam Porter and Anthony Tyus with some chunk plays to A.J. Henning and Cam Johnson sprinkled in. The Wildcat defense also capitalizes on its turnover opportunities, including picking off Gavin Hardison. NU looked bad against Rutgers, but not bad enough for me to change course based on my preseason prediction of making this a win.

Jake Mozarsky: Northwestern 23, UTEP 14

Even though UTEP has looked solid throughout its first two games, this is the first game in a while where you can confidently say Northwestern is the more talented team. Depending on Mike Bajakian’s gameplan, I think the Northwestern offense will find it easier to execute against a Miner defense that is worse than Rutgers’. Ben Bryant was not as bad as his stats look, and A.J. Henning and Cam Johnson can both thrive in the passing game, while Cam Porter will have a better game on the ground. On the defensive side of the ball, it’s going to come down to turnovers, and the secondary had its chances last week against Gavin Wimsatt. This week, they hopefully can capitalize and Northwestern wins in America!

Ethan Segall: UTEP 16, Northwestern 14

The movement on the spread for this game has been a roller coaster of its own. Northwestern opened as a favorite last week but after the ‘Cats’ loss last week, UTEP became the favorite. Now the line is back to Northwestern -1, but if you were thinking about betting on this game, I have some advice for you: don’t. Just don’t. This game will be grueling enough to watch without having additional money on the line. Anyways, I’m picking the Miners to get their first Power Five win since the 1967 Sun Bowl against Ole Miss. If last week is any indication, Deion Hankins and this rushing attack will give this Northwestern defense problems behind a really solid offensive line.

David Gold: Northwestern 20, UTEP 13

I don’t know why I am picking this because I have so little faith in this program, yet here I am. It has been nearly 700 days since NU won on American soil, and UTEP has not won against a Power Five opponent in nearly 60 years. It would be the least surprising thing if the Wildcats were the team to finally break that streak. I said on Pound the Talk that Northwestern has to block and tackle, but that is a major if. The only reason I’m picking the ‘Cats to win is I think A.J. Henning is better than any C-USA corner, and Ben Bryant will respond to last week’s debacle with a solid performance. Add in an interception by the Wildcats’ secondary, and Northwestern will finally be able to sing the fight song in Ryan Field for the first time in nearly two years.

Natalie Wells: Northwestern 17, UTEP 13

Ben Bryant and the ‘Cats’ offense simply melted in the New Jersey heat last week. The season opener was their best chance at stealing a Big Ten win, but they just couldn’t string together consistent drives. Bryant threw two picks, Cam Porter averaged 1.3 yards per carry and Brendan Sullivan led the team in rushing yards. None of those statistics are particularly encouraging. The defensive line didn’t record a single sack, putting an unfair amount of pressure on the secondary. Bryce Gallagher and company need to buckle down against UTEP back Deion Hankins, who ripped off 174 rushing yards in a win against Incarnate Word. If Northwestern’s offense milks the clock and plays turnover-free football, I think it can scrape together its first American win in nearly 700 days. My remaining shred of hope is completely indefensible, but I’m not willing to give up on Braun’s squad just yet.

John Olsen: UTEP 27, Northwestern 14

Res ipsa loquitur.

Ascher Levin: Northwestern 21, UTEP 14

After an embarrassing loss to Rutgers, Northwestern is looking to rebound against UTEP. The Miners are one of the easiest remaining opponents on Northwestern’s schedule, so this is a good opportunity for the Wildcats. UTEP has played two games so far this season: losing against Jacksonville State and beating Incarnate Word. The Miners ran for 329 yards in their last game against Incarnate Word, and it is key for Northwestern to be able to stop the run. On the offensive side, Coach Braun said that Ben Bryant will remain as the starting quarterback. Bryant didn’t have much time to process the field against Rutgers, as the offensive line struggled mightily; however, he has to improve his accuracy for Northwestern to be successful. Even though my miniscule confidence in the team is dwindling, Northwestern should be able to secure their first win of the season.

Brendan Preisman: Northwestern 16, UTEP 13

I said this would be a Wildcats win in my preseason predictions, and I’m sticking to that. UTEP is 1-1 after losing to Jacksonville State and beating FCS Incarnate Word, but those games don’t say too much about how they’ll do against a team that’s technically a Power Five squad. Northwestern was utterly dominated in the trenches, but the one saving grace should be that UTEP is a much worse team on both lines than Rutgers. The Miners gave up 208 rushing yards to Jacksonville State in their loss, so the Wildcats have a blueprint. Assuming the Wildcats will be able to rush for better than 12 total yards (like they did against Rutgers), Northwestern will more than likely be able to win this one. If NU can’t...let’s just say the stadium won’t be the only thing getting demolished in the next few years.

Jeremy Song: Northwestern 21, UTEP 17

The biggest X-factor for Northwestern in this game would have to be the offensive line. We saw how abysmal the offense could be last Sunday, where Ben Bryant had almost no time to throw the ball because the pocket kept collapsing. If the offensive line can step up against the UTEP defensive line, this team definitely has enough talent to beat the Miners. Northwestern’s defense played its hearts out last Sunday and limited a supposedly good Rutgers running game to 122 yards on a 2.8 YPC average. If it can continue playing well against the run against Deion Hankins and this stout UTEP rushing attack, I see a path for the Wildcats to win their first game this season.

Adam Beck: UTEP 20, Northwestern 10

Although this game is certainly winnable for Northwestern, the truth is there wasn’t a lot to be optimistic about last weekend. Although the ‘Cats won’t be facing a Power Five opponent, I’m not convinced they’ll be any more successful than their Week One letdown in Piscataway. Against Rutgers, Northwestern’s defense couldn’t get off the field, and with UTEP’s dangerous rushing attack able to churn out long time-consuming drives, I’m worried about Northwestern being able to gain any momentum. An early touchdown on the Miners’ opening drive, and this Northwestern squad might have trouble getting things going.

John Ferrara: UTEP 24, Northwestern 16

I’ve never been quite so down on a football team as I am on Northwestern after last week’s outing versus Rutgers. Aside from a late-game touchdown from the team’s backup quarterback (and David Braun has made it abundantly clear that Ben Bryant will remain the starter over Brendan Sullivan moving forward), we all watched 60 minutes of poor line play from the ‘Cats — both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. UTEP is fresh off a game against Incarnate Word, in which the Miners rushed for over 300 yards. I’d like to think the Cardinals possess a drastically worse defensive front than NU, but after 12 straight losses, including one that came at the hands of FCS-level Southern Illinois, I have a hard time making definitive statements about the ‘Cats. If they are going to grab a win this season, this matchup proves to be the most favorable void Howard in Week Six. Who’s to say? I’ve just been scorned too many times by the men in purple.

Patrick Winograd: Northwestern 20, UTEP 17

The only prediction I feel sure about in relation to this game is that it will be low-scoring. UTEP scored just 14 points in their season-opening loss to Jacksonville State (which was in the program’s first FBS game), and followed that performance up with 28 points against FCS opponent Incarnate Word. The Miners’ defense limited both opponents to 17 points, but averaging 21 points offensively against those opponents doesn’t exactly inspire any confidence in UTEP’s offense. However, Northwestern managed to put up just seven meaningless points near the end of the game against Rutgers. Even though this will be a step-up from the first two opponents for UTEP’s defense, Northwestern’s offense isn’t likely to get in a shootout. Despite the dismal showing last Sunday, I still have Northwestern grinding out a victory in its home opener.

Sammy Krimstein: Northwestern 23, UTEP 14

After an abysmal week one showing in Piscataway, I have the Wildcats bouncing back in their home opener against UTEP. Despite UTEP’s prowess on the ground during its first two games, the athleticism of Northwestern’s linebacking corps, led by Bryce Gallagher and Xander Mueller, should keep the Miners’ rushing attack in check. Offensively, the Wildcats need vast improvement up front. Last week, Northwestern only rushed for 12 yards — making it impossible to string together methodical drives. Ben Bryant also consistently found himself under pressure. With more time to throw the football, he would hopefully find the rhythm that eluded him in week one.

Noah Poser: Northwestern 20, UTEP 7

Let’s not overthink this one too much. Northwestern is the best team that UTEP has faced to this point and it’s not particularly close. While the Wildcats’ issues have been well-documented thus far, they should prove to be a major step-up in competition for the Miners over a Jacksonville State program in its debut FBS season and an FCS school in Incarnate Word. Yes, the Wildcats looked bad against Rutgers. But, chances are they’ll be able to rush for more yards than they did last week, when they managed a measly 12. Of course, on the flip side of that, there is a fair bit of concern about UTEP’s rushing attack, which has proved lethal so far this season, averaging 243 yards per game through its first two games. Stopping that ground game will be the key for Northwestern to leave Ryan Field with its first win in the continental U.S. since 2021. Ultimately, I believe that the team manages to accomplish that task and start the home slate off on the right foot.

Season Standings

1-0: Bradley Locker, Ethan Segall, Jake Mozarsky, John Olsen, Natalie Wells, Brendan Preisman, Sammy Krimstein

0-1: Iggy Dowling, David Gold, Ascher Levin, Ashleigh Provoost