Utah @ New Mexico: Don't Make The Wrong Turn at Albuquerque

Mark CrystelContributor IIISeptember 17, 2010

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 14:  Shaky Smithson #1 of the Utah Utes celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter of the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Last season the UTEP Miners got steamrolled at Texas by a final of 64-7. What’s worse is the Miners got 60 yards of total offense. The sun shines for over 300 days a year in El Paso, but things didn’t look very bright, especially considering they were coming home to take on red hot Case Keenum and a Houston team fresh off consecutive wins over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

"How does this happen!" said the ESPN commentators after flashing the final score of the game at the Sun Bowl that day: UTEP 58, Houston 41.

You need not be so surprised, ESPN. The answer is simple: It’s conference play now.

New Mexico is coming off a horrible loss at Oregon, and the Ducks could arguably be the best team in the country right now. It got just a bit easier vs. Texas Tech but the final score was not quite indicative of how New Mexico’s offense and defense performed overall.

A pair of blocked punts, and a 90 yard kickoff return was allowed by the Lobos’ special teams. Quarterback Holbrook threw an interception deep in Texas Tech territory. Additionally, a touchdown was called back because of offensive pass interference in the form of an illegal screen. That’s a call you often don’t see.

When it was all said and done, New Mexico was on the short side of a 52-17 final score, but don’t automatically assume they will get blown out at home again.

This is conference play now.

For the second week in a row, the Lobos are about a 23 point underdog, but don’t use their loss at Oregon as a measuring stick. After all, Oregon could be the best team in the country. If New Mexico got UNLV at home like Utah did, and the Utes had to go on the road to take on Oregon, these two teams might be meeting up with identical 1-1 records.

Quarterback B.R. Holbrook took over the controls and started his first game at Oregon, an obviously tough task. He settled down to pass for over 300 yards against Texas Tech last week. If coach Locksley can clean up his special teams play and keep only the best players on the field, which he said he would do this week, there’s not as many indications pointing to a blowout in this game as many might think.

The Lobos have been defeated handily at times, but never lost a home conference game by more than 24 points over the last decade.

They say there’s a fine line between love and hate. When it comes to college football, there’s a thick line between conference and non-conference.

Keep that in mind, and as good ole’ Bugs Bunny used to say, don‘t make the wrong turn at Albuquerque.