It was Halloween night, 2013. The North Texas Mean Green were coming off of a three game winning streak, their first in almost 10 years. They were wearing the now infamous black uniforms, which presented a spooky situation for Rice, itself on a five game win streak, and standing at 6-2 on the year.
In front of a rowdy and costume-filled crowd at Apogee Stadium in Denton, the Mean Green used defense, in the form of a 55 yard fumble return by now Baltimore Raven Zach Orr in the first quarter, two interceptions by Marcus Trice, and a huge defensive stop in the fourth quarter to end the Owls winning streak and take possession of first place in Conference USA. While most fans in the audience felt something different about this team (at 5-3, the team had its best record since 2004), the revenge win over Rice, who knocked off the Mean Green 77-20 in 2009 assured the fans that this would be a special season.
Rice, did recover though, using a late North Texas loss to UTSA to qualify for the Conference USA Championship, where they upended Marshall, on the way to Mississippi State administering a beatdown of the Owls in the Liberty Bowl. Of course, we know now that the win was only the beginning of State's ascent to the top of the college football world.
Fast forward to the week before Halloween, 2014. North Texas now finds itself in its own spooky situation, starting Andrew McNulty at quarterback, again, after prodigal son and supposed program savior Dajon Williams did not work out, for now. The defense, once the meanest part of the Mean Green, has struggled over the past few games, including allowing 30 points to a once woeful Southern Miss team.
Rice seems to be regaining its footing, riding a 3-game winning streak. The defense, led by All-Conference lineman Christian Covington has finally started to live up to its preseason promise, making a combined 25 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the past two games. Quarterback Driphus Jackson has thrown for seven touchdowns and only two interceptions during the three-game winning streak.
With Louisiana Tech clearly sitting in the C-USA West driver's seat (who predicted that?) preseason favorites Rice and North Texas sit at a fork in the road. One more loss for North Texas makes it certain that the team must win the last four games to achieve the goal of #Hit6 that the coaches promoted so well on Twitter at the beginning of the year. With the caliber of teams it plays to end the year, UNT could still finish with six wins, but the Mean Green hasn't shown it can play a full game against similar competition (no, SMU does not count). Rice still has a shot at the C-USA West title- barring any slip-up, the Owls face La Tech in the last game of the season, with one more shot at a chance to repeat as conference champions.
The game kicks off at 11 am in Houston, and can be seen on Fox Sports Net. I don't think this will be a competitive game at all, with Rice pounding the Mean Green defense and ultimately emerging victorious, 45-17.