Sooners schedule preview: At UTEP

Sept. 1, 2012: At The University of Texas at El Paso

2011 record: 5-7 | 2011 conference record: 2-6 (Conference USA)

Oklahoma all-time against UTEP: 2-0

Top returners: QB Nick Lamaison, WR Mike Edwards, C Eloy Atkinson, DT Germard Reed, DT Marcus Bagley, DE Horace Miller, LB Jamie Irving, LB Josh Fely, S Richard Spencer, P Ian Campbell

Key losses: RB Joe Banyard, RB Vernon Frazier, WR Donavon Kemp, DE Bernard Obi, LB Jeremy Springer, LB Royzell Smith, LB Isaiah Carter, CB Antwon Blake, S TraVaun Nixon, S DeShawn Grayson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Joe Banyard (832 yards)

Passing: Nick Lamaison* (1,718 yards)

Receiving: Mike Edwards* (657 yards)

Tackles: Jeremy Springer (70)

Sacks: Horace Miller* (5)

Interceptions: TraVaun Nixon (5)

What they're saying: "It's the opportunity of a lifetime. It's the most competitive schedule we've had since I've been here. It's where we want to be. Our players are really jacked up about it, and our fans should be excited." – UTEP head coach Mike Price

Three things to watch:

1. All eyes on Lamaison: The Miners figure to put their offensive hopes on the arm of quarterback Nick Lamaison. The former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback transferred to junior college after Lane Kiffin left Tennessee for USC, and found a home in El Paso, Texas. Last season in his first year with the Miners, Lamaison threw for 1,700 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but dealt with a separated shoulder and then a groin injury, which caused him to miss the better part of four games.

2. Who totes the rock?: UTEP lost virtually its entire rushing attack with the graduation of Joe Banyard, Vernon Frazier and Leilyon Myers. The trio combined for 1,634 of the Miners' 1,859 yards last season. UTEP will look to untested sophomores Nathan Jeffery and Josh Bell to take pressure off Lamaison. Jeffery ran for 122 yards in UTEP’s spring game.

3. Revamped defense: The Miners ranked No. 104 in total defense last season, and will have to replace several key contributors from that unit. UTEP will lean heavily on linebacker Jamie Irving, who led all linebackers in tackles in 2010, but missed last season after undergoing a pair of offseason shoulder surgeries. The strength of the defense should be up front, where Germard Reed and Horace Miller return. But the defensive backfield, which must replace three starters, could be on its heels against OU’s hurry-up, pass offense.