Conference USA released the schedules of its member schools yesterday, and North Texas didn't get any favors. Aside from one less home game, the team did not receive an in-season bye, and closes the 2015 campaign with a brutal three game road stretch against 2014 bowl teams.
Here's a breakdown of the schedule:
September 5- Bye- To be honest, this is the worst time for a bye. While everyone else gets a game under their belt, North Texas gets to sit and wait, which is the worst thing a team coming off a horrible season would have to do on opening weekend. To make it even worse, on September 12, North Texas has to play....
September 12- a fired up SMU team, that should be much improved under new Coach Chad Morris, and looking to avenge a 43-6 loss in 2014. SMU will probably be 0-1 at this point in the season after a beatdown by Baylor, but with the Mean Green breaking in some new defensive players, this game might not turn in North Texas's favor.
September 19- Rice- The home opener against a well-coached Rice team? Another game that doesn't look so good. Rice has a game against Texas the week before, and also should be fired up after a loss, since I'm assuming Charlie Strong's team will be improved from 2014. North Texas fans should be in full force, and the Rice game pretty much defined UNT's 2013 season. Luckily for the Mean Green, some Rice defensive contributors are also graduating or leaving early for the NFL.
September 26- Iowa- This year, unfortunately, the Mean Green play two "body bag" games, or as Dan McCarney calls them "opportunity" games. This game has a little bit of history, as McCarney coached at Iowa under the most successful North Texas coach of all time, Hayden Fry. In the battle of who can control the clock, this expected 12 o'clock game time start should end before second happy hour, as the Mean Green get some more time to prepare for Southern Miss
UNT could go 1-4 in October, or it could go 4-1. The October 10th game against Portland State is a gimme, but the question will be, is anyone going to show up? (It's Texas-OU Weekend). I expect Southern Miss to continue to climb the ladder, and the Mean Green will catch a little bit of a break getting Marshall without quarterback sensation Rakeem Cato, but the defense could be in for a long day October 17, when Western Kentucky and Conference USA MVP Quarterback Brandon Doughty comes to town.
The most interesting part of October? Yet another Halloween home tilt against a Texas school (which will likely be nationally televised), this time, against UTSA, who the Mean Green have not beaten since 2013 (or, if you're keeping official stats, never).
The schedule gods did the Mean Green no favors. Beginning with the November 7 game at Heart of Dallas bowl champion Louisiana Tech (with former Florida QB Jeff Driskell), the Mean Green play three straight road games, following the Bulldogs with Tennessee (the SEC's F*** it week) and Middle Tennessee. The Vols, by the way, are the same team that shredded Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl earlier this year.
Middle Tennessee, a school which has generally given UNT problems, and UTEP, which plays a similar style (and returns their top rusher), won't give UNT any reprieve in terms of an easy November win.
Once again, unfortunately, UNT's bowl hopes will come down to late season games. My early prediction? With all the uncertainty surrounding BOTH the offense and defense, I wouldn't be surprised to see another 4-8 year.