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MMA Wagering UnderGround >> With Starters Out, UTEP Big Fav

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9/14/05 8:22 PM
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Edited: 14-Sep-05
Member Since: 06/08/2002
Posts: 4057

How could this be?

When the UTEP Miners announced three key defensive linemen would not be in the lineup for their matchup with the Houston Cougars,/a>, oddsmakers actually made them bigger favorites.

"We haven't received any money on Houston," said Michael Pierce of BetWWTS.com. "One of our biggest sharps took UTEP at –12 and the number has yet to go the other way."

Starting defensive tackles Zach West (knee) and Joe Ward (ankle), along with West's backup Ricky Van (ankle), were scratched after injuring themselves in UTEP's season opening 34-17 win over New Mexico State as an 8 ½-point favorite two weeks ago.

The three players were integral to a Miners defense that sacked Aggies quarterback Royal Gill eight times and allowed New Mexico State only 17 yards on the ground.

Juniors Humberto Padilla and Justin Watson will start on Friday and more will asked of the other linemen Tevita Fifita, Reggie Miles Jr.Justin Hanel,Jake Belshe and redshirt freshman James Olalekan to fill the holes left by the injuries; especially that left by the 6-foot-4, 300-pound West.

"When you talk about losing a person like Zach, you`re talking about size, definitely experience, and a lot of power he brings to the table," New Mexico defensive coach Ikaika Malloe told the El Paso Times. "Double teams are not as much of a problem with him as other people. That`s what we`ll lose -- that force inside. So we`ll have to make up for it with speed."

There was some concern the injuries and subsequent loss of depth would keep UTEP's lineman on the field longer, allowing the dynamic Houston Cougars` offense to exploit a tired Miners defense in the second half. But Covers Expert Brian Gabrielle says UTEP backers shouldn't be concerned about any loss of depth

"Depth on the road and depth at home are two different things," says Gabrielle. "You only take so many players on the road but at home you have everyone. They'll be fine."

"In fact I wouldn't be worried about anything Houston has," continues Gabrielle. "They won't be able to keep up with UTEP. I like anything up to 13 ½ points for this game."

-Brian Covert

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