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North Texas vs. Alabama-Birmingham Preview: No More Mean Green Mismatches

After five games where one side or the other held a distinct, overwhelming advantage, North Texas readies for a schedule of games that could swing either way, starting with the Blazers on Saturday.

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Mathematically, North Texas' conference game against the University of Alabama-Birmingham this Saturday is the last game of the first half of the 12-game season. It'd make more sense if we make a virtual break in the sand right now, though.

The first five games of North Texas' season pitted an overwhelmed football against a much more talented one. All were blowouts that were over at halftime and ended more than 20 points one way or the other -- twice is North Texas' favor, three times not. Equally important, the Mean Green changed quarterbacks to redshirt freshman Dajon Williams halfway through, and like any change, the transition period is having its ups and downs.

It might have been fun to see if a Dajon-led offense could have score a first half touchdown or two against Texas to put the scare on them, or broken triple digits against SMU (I'm only half joking here), but that change wouldn't have been enough to change the script of those games. There's an argument to be made for Louisiana Tech, but quarterback troubles or not, the Bulldogs beat North Texas soundly on all three phases. Let's call these games the first half -- five opponents in which the outcomes were unlikely to sway one way or another regardless of what the Mean Green did.

It's the second half now. Any game could go either way. The Mean Green now holds its own fate in its hands.

UAB is a good but beatable football team. Last week, they totaled 42 points and nearly 600 total yards on Western Kentucky thanks to a very versatile offense with a strong running and passing game -- they've passed for 1371 yards this season while running for 1121. Again WKU, quarterback Cody Clements completed 22 of his 25 passing attempts, and is at 70 percent completion percentage for the year.

The Blazers also have an excellent one-two punch at running back. You might think Jordan Howard is the speedy back and D.J. Vinson is the bruising fullback type from their stats (Howard's yards per carry is higher, while Vinson has more touchdowns), but it's actually the opposite. Howard, a sophomore, is the team's number one option with 564 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 103 carries, but Vinson will also test defenses in a secondary role (84 carries, 346 yards, seven touchdowns).

For North Texas, defensive success probably won't mean they prevent the offense from moving the ball at all; it's more probable that being opportunistic and forcing turnovers will work in their favor. Both Vinson and Howard fumbled last week, and in his last two weeks, Clements has thrown three interception, all returned for touchdowns -- the growing pains of a first-year starter.

With Williams now at the helm, North Texas has already experienced similar pains. Fortunately, the UAB defense isn't as quick as Indiana's when collapsing a hole in the line or reacting to a sideline post route -- the Hoosiers picked off Dajon on that throw twice last week.

It was good to see Williams take baby steps, leading a couple late touchdown drives even after those two interceptions. He didn't break any long runs, but consistently picked up short gains on the ground when nothing else was there against Indiana last week. It's an element to the offense that's been missing from Denton ever seen McCarney took the reins.

If North Texas' offense functions as it should, they shouldn't meet an exceptional amount of resistance against UAB, setting up a game that could be high scoring and actually competitive down the stretch. If the game's still competitive in the fourth quarter, just take a deep breath and a drink of your preferred beverage and try not to freak out, Mean Green fan. But from here on out no final result should be taken for granted, because in this second half of football, it feels like any game can swing for or against the Mean Green.