COLLEGE STATION (AP) – As No. 12 Texas A&M gets a break from the high-pressure Southeastern Conference with a nonconference game against UTEP on Saturday, coach Kevin Sumlin took time to reflect on his two star players.

He raved about quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans after the two were selected semifinalists for the Maxwell Award.

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Then he wondered why only Manziel was being touted as a Heisman Trophy contender.

“I’m puzzled why Mike Evans isn’t in the Heisman race,” Sumlin said. “I think he’s as good a player as there is in the country.”

Manziel, who became the first freshman to win the Heisman last season, is again a front-runner for the award after throwing for 2,594 yards with 22 touchdowns and running for 497 yards with six more scores.

The 6-foot-5 Evans is second in the nation with 1,101 yards receiving and has scored 11 touchdowns, but hasn’t been mentioned much in Heisman talk.

“He’s second in the country in yards per game and everybody knows we’re going to throw him the ball,” Sumlin said.

One possible explanation for Evans not getting Heisman consideration is because he’s on the same team as Manziel. But Sumlin brushed off that thought after the experience he had as an assistant at Oklahoma in 2004.

“People say you can’t have two guys that can do that,” Sumlin said. “But I was on a team at Oklahoma that had Jason White and Adrian Peterson.”

That season Matt Leinart won the award and Peterson and White finished second and third.

Five things to know about the UTEP-Texas A&M game:

BIG UNDERDOGS: The Miners are 46-point underdogs and have lost five in a row entering Saturday’s game. Texas A&M has won both previous meetings in the series, but the teams haven’t met since 2000.

UTEP coach Sean Kugler knows his team has a big challenge.

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“To say we’ve got our work cut out for us is an understatement,” he said. “We’re going to have to play our best and be mistake-free to even have a chance to be in this game. That’s not sugar coating it.”

400 CLUB: Texas A&M has finished with at least 400 yards in 20 straight games. It’s a school record and the second-longest streak in the FBS. They’ve surpassed the 500-yard mark in their last seven games and have had at least 400 yards in all but one game since Sumlin took over.

NEW QUARTERBACK: Blaire Sullivan takes over the offense with former A&M player Jameill Showers out with a shoulder injury. Sullivan had 112 yards passing and a touchdown after Showers was injured against Rice. Sullivan has 402 yards passing and 261 yards rushing in nine career games.

“He’s just got to play within the system and take what’s there for you,” Kugler said. “He’ll get more opportunities with practice reps and he’ll be much better this week.”

IMPROVED DEFENSE: Texas A&M’s struggling defense had a better performance last week against Vanderbilt. The unit had three interceptions — one returned for a touchdown — and seven sacks in that game.

“For them to have some success is important,” Sumlin said. “We’re better. We’re not great by any means, but we’re better. Hopefully some success by the young guys and some success by the defense will make us better. We’ll continue to get better and gain some confidence from that moving forward.”

AGAINST TOP-25: UTEP is 1-30 all-time against ranked opponents on the road. The Miners last win over a ranked team away from El Paso came in a 31-27 victory over No. 14 Arizona State in 1974. But the Miners have had more recent success against teams in the top-25 at home. UTEP’s last win overall against a ranked opponent came when the Miners beat No. 12 Houston, then coached by Sumlin, 58-41, in 2009.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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