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North Texas vs. LA Tech Preview: Three Keys

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The Mean Green and the Bulldogs are coming off emotional, blow out wins over in-state rivals. With UTSA and Rice favored in the western division of Conference USA, Thursday night's contest allows the winner a chance to get a leg up in the division race. The loser will drop to 1-2 and will be squarely behind the 8-ball when conference play heats up in October.

Can the Mean Green dominate behind their offensive line?
Can the Mean Green dominate behind their offensive line?
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

So what's going to make the difference in this game? Well let me tell you...

Mistakes

North Texas has 21 penalties for 195 yards so far this season; both of those numbers find the Mean Green ranked among the top five in the country. Louisiana Tech has only 10 penalties for 67 yards. The Bulldogs had a few penalties early against ULL and it cost them momentum in the first quarter. Both UNT and LA Tech rank high in turnover margin, with the Mean Green at +3 turnovers on the season and the Bulldogs at +4.

North Texas was able to turn SMU over five times last week, and three of those turnovers led to quick touchdowns. The Mean Green had touchdown drives of 14 and 21 yards and they also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery. La Tech had an interception return for a touchdown and also scored a field goal after receiving a short field. So far this year, both teams have successfully taken advantage of their opponent's turnovers. Who can keep that streak going on Thursday?

Running Game

North Texas has a massive offensive line, led by seniors Cyril Lemon (6-3, 315) and Shawn McKinney (6-4, 358) and they will try to run the ball behind that right side all night. So far, the Mean Green have had limited success running the ball. Reggie Pegram and Antoinne Jimmerson have the most carries on the team and they combined for 60 carries for 208 yards, good for 3.47 yards per carry. That kind of running will get you a first down on three carries, but can North Texas run that way for an entire game? Alonzo Harris had 12 carries for 74 yards and a score, most of that in the first half against Tech. The Bulldogs were able to force ULL into passing more in the second half. If they can do the same thing against UNT, they should be able to win the game.

For Louisiana Tech, Kenneth Dixon was held in check against UNT a year ago. ULL also had success early stopping the run last week until Dixon scored on a 99 yard touchdown run. That opened up the entire offense for Tech, but they didn't score again until 4:33 left before halftime. The Bulldogs were able to start completing passes and that started opening up the running game. Dixon finished with 184 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 12 carries.

Sokol

Cody Sokol has been the biggest difference from last season for Louisiana Tech. The Arizona native is 44 of 69 for 486 yard and 4 touchdowns so far this season. The Bulldogs would have killed for that kind of production a year ago. Last year's transfer, Scotty Young, started six games and only had 733 yards and 4 touchdowns. North Texas completely shut down SMU's offense and they held David Ash to 19 of 34 for 190 yards and a touchdown in the Texas game. If the Mean Green can control Sokol, they will probably be able to control the Bulldogs.

North Texas is playing at home for the second straight week and they are yet to leave the State of Texas. The Bulldogs are playing on the road for the third straight week so they will be at a disadvantage. It really will come down to who can play mistake free, power football and impose their will on the other team. Tech has a wildcard in Cody Sokol, but will that be enough to pull the Bulldogs through?