Texas is a big place. Like really, really big. Big in square-mileage and big in population, it currently sustains 12 FBS teams quite comfortably, and even by the twilight of the SWC, most of these rivalries had been well-established since oh, before you were born. And then suddenly here came North Texas, the outcast, the wallflower, this new FBS upstart not even respected in its own metroplex-- the new teams coming to its stadium in those early years no more familiar to the local fans than the FCS teams who preceded them.
Fourteen seasons later, we find ourselves asking-- where is our arch-rival? And hasn't enough time passed so that we should have one? In the early years, UNT was out at the edge of the #FunBelt conference map, but much has changed since then. To see where we're going, let's take a look back at where we've been, and the ever-changing roster of North Texas' Arch Nemeses.
Middle Tennessee (2001-2004)
In October of 2001, North Texas lost their first-ever Sun Belt conference game to football-only member Louisiana-Monroe. The Mean Green would not lose another conference game until 2005. That first year MTSU finished with the same conference record (5-1), but the Mean Green took the show thanks to the tie-breaker... and while MTSU came close for the next couple seasons, they never got as close again as they did that first year.
Who ended that streak? Upstart and new addition to the conference Troy University, on Oct. 4, 2005. A number of schools had just put in four years of work to make it at the FBS level (then I-A) to be taken seriously, who did these Trojans think they were? Scraping by on a 13-10 victory at home, no less? The loss hurt so bad that after the Mean Green beat FIU the next week by the same score, NT dropped the last six games of the season. 2006 was even worse, and head coach Darrell Dickey was fired at the end of it. Who could turn it around?
Todd Dodge (2007-10)
This is not necessarily Dodge's fault, as he never should've been promoted to this level anyway, at least not right out of a high school program. The terribleness of the last two years only snowballed, as the chess-playing coaches of FBS made mince-meat out of Dodge, who was playing checkers. AD Rick Villarreal mercifully gave Dodge four years (probably in an attempt to not look stupid), but with no demonstrable change, Dodgeball got kicked back to Sweet Valley High. The Mean Green had no other rival during all this because they averaged two wins per season, for four years straight.
Arkansas State (2011-12)
This is a tricky one, because I'm not sure Arkansas State is even aware of this. But they were the ones cleaning up in the Sun Belt while UNT was flailing at the bottom trying to figure out How to Make America Great Again. ASU reaped the success while UNT just sort of hung out in their big expensive new house and nobody wanted to come over and play. These were dark times indeed. Shut up, I'm totally not crying, I have some dust in my eye.
DAMMIT, ROADRUNNERS. We feel about you the way we feel about whichever unassuming Mountain West team tops Boise State in a meaningless road game this year, keeping them out of the National Title Game.
Was North Texas going to win a national title? Well certainly not with THAT shitty attitude. The Mean Green stumbled to start the 2013 season, losing close games to Ohio and Tulane (and an expected huge loss to Georgia), but then went on a tear through the conference, including a victory over division-leading Rice. This was it! That was the tie-breaker! Then comes you, you smug Road Runners, with your national-championship-having coach, and your gigantic off-campus stadium and your post-FCS fire, which I'm pretty sure is a thing. We lost 21-13 at home, and while it seemed insignificant at the time, if that game went the other way, UNT is in the conference title game. Instead it went to Rice, who squashed Marshall, which by the transitory property means WE would've beat Marshall.
In 2014, UNT lost to you again in a meaningless season-ending game, making us 0-2 all-time against these young Urban Cowboy Upstarts. And you know what? UTSA probably didn't even notice. To them, it was just another meaningless game, progress toward a goal, they were having a good season, not a great one.
They probably don't even know North Texas exists, or at least, they don't have a strong opinion about them.
But you know what? Your day is coming, UTSA. The day when you're having a really great season, possibly the best in school history. You'll have visions of conference titles, or bowl games, or maybe even a (gasp) national ranking. And on that day, we will be there, UTSA. We will play you at home and you'll already be looking forward to next week, and we will play you for four quarters and we will beat you for four quarters, and you will be in denial about it until the final whistle, then you will run home and cry us a Riverwalk. And then you will know our pain. And then you will circle our next meeting on the calendar, and you will wait.
...On second thought, you know what? Screw this, having an arch-rival SUCKS. You hear me, Texas State? Being the only team in your conference from your state is the BEST THING EVER. You wanna trade? You can deal with the 'Runners every year, Bobcats, and the Mean Green will hang out back in the #FunBelt, where I have every confidence we are still two head coaches away from being able to compete with Georgia Southern. ROLL RUNNERS.