Date: Saturday, November 5, 2016
Kickoff Time: 4:30 PM CDT
Location: Denton, TX
Stadium: Apogee Stadium
Series Record: La Tech leads 8-6
Last Meeting: La Tech 56-13
Betting Line: La Tech -20
How many homecoming meetings does it take to form a rivalry?
This will be the fourth meeting between the Bulldogs and the Mean Green since they both joined C-USA in 2013 and it will also be the third time they have played during a homecoming game. The Mean Green spoiled La Tech’s 2013 homecoming, but the Bulldogs returned the favor beating UNT in Denton the following year and decimating them in their homecoming game last year. This year, UNT will host the Bulldogs for their homecoming.
(EDIT: I realized after writing this that UNT was also Tech’s 2005 homecoming game.)
UNT hit rock bottom in 2015 going 1-11 with their only win being rival and fellow bottom-dweller UTSA. With a new coach this year, they have already shown signs of improvement as they’ve quadrupled last year’s win total and sit at 4-4. It’s been an up and down season as they’ve beaten an FCS team (already an improvement), defeated Rice on the road in double overtime, and had two surprising upset wins over Marshall (who’s not as good as usual) and Army (who’s better than usual.) They also lost to MTSU and Florida (predictably) and lost to both of their in-state rivals (SMU and UTSA). Sitting now at 4-4, they’re hoping to make a bowl game for the first time since 2013, but with three conference contenders left on the schedule, they’ll need to spring an upset somewhere to reach 6-6. Recent rule changes allowing 5-7 teams to make bowls based on academic progress rate (APR) could change things for UNT. The most recent rates available on the NCAA website lists UNT as having the best APR in C-USA.
Louisiana Tech meanwhile, is an entirely different story. After years of mediocrity in the WAC, the Bulldogs are thriving in C-USA. They are coming off two 9-win seasons including back-to-back bowl victories and a division title. This season looked like it could be a rebuilding year, but it has been anything but as the Dawgs are first in the West and in prime position to potentially host the C-USA championship game as long as they win their last 3 games, all of which they should be favored in. They’ll be looking to avoid such a stumble in Denton.
To talk about any game this season, you have to start with La Tech’s offense. Going into week ten, they are the top offense in the nation in total yards with 4996. They are 7th nationally in points per game with 44. Ryan Higgins is tied for fourth nationally (1st C-USA) in total passing yards and is sixth nationally (2nd C-USA) in QBR. Trent Taylor is currently the nation’s leading receiver in yards and second in receptions. Carlos Henderson is tied for 6th in yards and tied for 2nd in receiving touchdowns. La Tech likes to throw it, but they can run when they need to. Jarred Craft continues to get the job done, with Boston Scott relieving him late in games. WR Kam McKnight often gets carries on the goal line, usually in the “T-bone” formation but occasionally from the wildcat, and leads the team in rushing scores. Ryan Higgins isn’t afraid to scramble and had the team’s longest rush (a 71 yard TD) against Rice last week.
North Texas’s offense is young. They’ll throw it, but they like to run. Jeffrey Wilson interestingly enough has exactly as many carries as Jarred Craft thus far. Although he trails just behind Craft in yards (Craft is 5th in C-USA, Wilson is 6th), he has 12 touchdowns to Craft’s five. Despite a less-than-stellar game against UTSA, he otherwise has done well, going over 100 yards 3 times (Rice, Marshall, Army). UNT won all three games. He’s been held under 50 yards three times, all games UNT lost. UNT’s day offensively against Tech could be determined by what kind of game Wilson has.
Defensively both teams give up over 400 yards a game. Tech has struggled on defense this year, but has been slowly improving and had a great game against Rice. Tech gives up more passing yards, but their run defense hasn’t been that bad, and running the ball well has been UNT’s key to success. UNT, on the other hand, gives up over 200 yards rushing. UNT’s defense was able to corral MTSU’s offense for the first half, but couldn’t hold them in the second. Tech’s offense is a little better than MTSU’s statistically, but if UNT’s defense can step it up, they could make this game interesting. However, if they continue to give up tons of yards, Tech will make them pay.
UNT is heartbroken after a bad road loss to rival UTSA, especially when that game was probably key to bowl eligibility. Now they have to play 3 conference contenders in a row. That prospect could be very daunting.
Still, if UNT’s defense can play well and Wilson can have a good day rushing, they could keep this game competitive longer than some might expect. However, despite Tech’s struggles defending the pass, they haven’t had near as much trouble stopping the run and that defense has improved every game. No one has been able to stop the Higgins-led offense and UNT’s defense, despite the early success they had against MTSU, will be outmatched by the multi-faceted Tech offense.
UNT will keep it close for a half, but Tech will explode in the 2nd half to register their 6th straight win.
La Tech 48, North Texas 21