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Five things UNT fans should know about UTEP

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas will host UTEP on Saturday, when the Mean Green will have a chance to clinch the Conference USA West Division title with a win over the Miners.

The Mean Green have won five of their last six games, including a huge victory over defending C-USA West Division champion Louisiana Tech last week.

UNT will look to keep that run going against UTEP. Here are five things UNT fans should know about the Miners:

1. UTEP made a midseason coaching change

There have been several teams that have changed coaches in the middle of the season. UTEP is among them.

Sean Kugler had some success at UTEP and led the Miners to a bowl game in 2014, but wasn't able to sustain the momentum that game provided and resigned after an 0-5 start. 

UTEP turned to Mike Price as its interim coach, but still has not broken through for its first win of the season.

2. The Miners have a sure-fire NFL draft prospect in Will Hernandez

Conference USA programs rarely have players who are certain to be drafted. UTEP guard Will Hernandez is one of them.

The senior guard is a terrific player. CBS Sports ranks Hernandez ranked No. 55 on its list of the top players in the upcoming NFL draft.

Hernandez will be be drafted in a few months and playing on Sundays at this time next fall.

3. UTEP is a terrible offensive team

There are not many teams in the country struggling as much as UTEP offensively. Actually, if you judge it by points scored per game, there is just one. Kent State is averaging 10.7 points per game and ranks last nationally, just behind UTEP, which is averaging 11.4.

Middle Tennessee beat UTEP 30-3 last week. Southern Miss shut out the Miners 24-0.

UNT has struggled at times defensively, but should be able to get back on track in its game against the Miners.

4. UTEP has had its moments defensively

UTEP has played well enough defensively at times to help the Miners pull out their first win of the season.

UTEP lost to Western Kentucky 15-14 and allowed only 24 points in a loss to Southern Miss. Giving up 63 points to Arizona and 56 to Oklahoma hurt the Miners' average that stands at 36.2 points per game. 

UNT and UTEP have actually both given up 326 points this season.

5. There are some strong ties between the UTEP and UNT coaching staffs

The college football coaching community is a small one. It's rare when there are not any ties between staffs and schools.

The ties between UNT and UTEP stand out because two coaches have such strong ties to the school they will face this week.

UNT defensive coordinator Troy Reffett spent 14 seasons on the staff at UTEP and was the Miners' defensive coordinator in 2002 and 2003.  He played for the Miners before joining their staff.

UTEP assistant head coach Spencer Leftwich was the offensive line coach at UNT from 1998-2002 under Hall of Fame coach Darrell Dickey and was a part of the Mean Green's first two Sun Belt title teams during its four-year run from 2001-04. He returned to UNT from 2007-09 during the regrettable Todd Dodge era.

FEATURED PHOTO: UTEP coach Sean Kugler watches from the sideline during a game against New Mexico State in El Paso during the 2016 season. Kugler resigned after an 0-5 start in what has been a tough season for the Miners. (Andres Leighton/AP)