Start Time: 3:30 p.m. EST
Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton, TX
TV: Fox Sports Net
Radio: UTEP here, North Texas here.
Records: UTEP 4-7 (2-5), UNT 1-10 (1-6)
Series: North Texas leads the all-time series, 14-6
Live Stats: Here or else hit up Miner Rush
Line: North Texas -3, O/U 51.5
Unlike the Texas State/ULM game, this one is wisely not featured on national television. Two teams just trying to let the season mercifully end, there will not be much fanfare or media coverage. Except for your ol' buddies at Underdog Dynasty. Because we care. We care TOO MUCH.
North Texas Outlook:
Any North Texas fan who wouldn't respond "a mess" when asked about UNT's season, just isn't paying attention. After the FCS blowout loss (predicted by this very site), they fired their coach in favor of a slightly-less-terrible head coach, a coach who's actually done a pretty respectable job considering what he was handed. But as also predicted last week, this Mean Green squad has taken a step back every week since Canales took over, presumably teaching the kids football as he was hired to do, but not lighting up the field enough to keep the main job.
Hey, Canales has an impressive resume and will land on his feet, but when your last two bosses were Todd Dodge and Dan McCarney, you're gonna need a few more years fetching coffee before you get back to the top spot.
On the field, North Texas got crushed by Middle Tennessee last week, the worst team UNT has played-- with the exception of UTSA-- since Canales took over. This is not to take anything away from MTSU's impressive performance, they're still finishing 7-5 and will impress the nation in what will surely be their highest-profile bowl to date. Blue Raiders QB Brent Stockstill threw for over 300 yards as UNT loped along, going to three different QBs as they enter the garbage-time phase of the season. With UTSA winning last week, UNT is guaranteed a last place finish, but maybe going out with a win will be enough motivation, especially considering their top rusher and top receiver are, again this week, the best two players on the field.
Now that we've trashed on UNT, let's take a moment and appreciate that UTEP, a worse team, is 4-7 against a marginally easier schedule. How did this happen?
Difficult to say, as Miners QB Ryan Metz has been even worse than UNT QB DaMarcus Smith, throwing for 874 yards so far this season, including 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Smith is the better QB because he also runs, but worse because he only started the back half of UNT's schedule. On paper for the past month, these two teams are neck-and-neck. Prior to that, UTEP had Mack Leftwich, while UNT had a fire hydrant with a rubber band attached.
Neither team has a defense to speak of, but UNT's top rusher has carried twice as often for twice as many yards on the season, and UTEP's top receiver is only a little better. When your nearest geographical neighbor is New Mexico State, you can start to develop a false sense of superiority. But the team with the better record here is the underdog according to Vegas, and they didn't just pull that out of their ass.
UTEP beat North Texas last year, but not to put too fine a point on it-- the last time UTEP beat North Texas twice in a row was in the 1953-54 seasons. These are two teams running on fumes who just want to toss the pigskin around for a couple of hours, then probably go watch their Big 12 brethren on TV. Let's make no mistake, neither of these teams have anything left in the tank, and both fans and coaches alike will be scouting this game for 2016 talent. The 2015 versions are both terrible.
But the UTEP version is just a little MORE terrible.
UNT 24, UTEP 14