North Texas is in the midst of a number of changes as they transition into the 2016 season, making their performance on the field highly unpredictable. The team just parted ways with their former starting quarterback, DaMarcus Smith, and lost their leading receiver at the end of last season. None of this meshes incredibly well with new head coach Seth Littrell's air attack style offense. The Mean Green have a few quarterbacks that will fight for the starting job this spring, but none will have any significant FBS level experience. Arguably, the only proven offensive threat that will return for the Mean Green is running back Jeffrey Wilson, one of the most talented players on the North Texas roster. The team has a lot of potential but it accompanies a lot of uncertainty. However, if the team can get their act together prior to the beginning of the season, they may be able to enjoy a slate of winnable non-conference games.
SMU gains a large offensive advantage this year by returning their starting quarterback and running back. Both Matt Davis and Xavier Jones fueled the bulk of the SMU offensive attack in 2015 and will likely do the same in 2016. Although Davis only completes about 54% of his throws and throws an interception for nearly every two touchdowns, the dual-threat dynamic he provides will challenge the Mean Green defense. Defensively, the Mustangs return a lot of the same players that they had last season. Fortunately for North Texas, those players were a part of a defense that ranked 118th nationally in total defense. We're likely in for a shootout in this one.
This game is scheduled to be an easy win, but Portland State proved last year that nothing is guaranteed. BCU had a pretty impressive season last year and ended the year at 9-2. However, this season the Wildcats will be without a number of key players that led them in 2015. The team will travel to Denton for their second game of the season without their 2015 starting running back or quarterback. The duo of quarterback Quentin Williams and running back Anthony Jordan combined for 2,847 yards and 28 touchdowns in their final season with BCU. The Wildcats will need to find quality replacements quickly for their key players if they want to steal one from the Mean Green on the road.
Let's start by stating that I understand the win probability for the Mean Green on paper is pretty low in this game. However, there are numerous reasons that this one might be far closer than you think. To start off, Florida wasn't a remarkably impressive team in the second half of last season. Following a 6-0 start, the team lost starting QB Will Grier and only finished 4-4 in their final eight games. During those eight games the bulk of the offensive production came from running back, Kelvin Taylor, who left for the draft at the end of the season. The Gators seem to have at least two decent quarterbacks fighting for the starting position at the moment, but it's questionable if either will settle into their role by week 3. Florida will likely rely on its defense, which ranked 8th in total defense last season, to minimize the Mean Green offensive attack and shoot for a low-scoring victory.
North Texas will head to West Point to face the Black Knights for the first time since the 1997 season. Army is coming off of a 2-10 season but may not exactly be a cakewalk for the team. The Black Knights may have had a poor record last season, but they managed to rank towards the top of the NCAA in rushing offense while keeping a somewhat solid defense. Coincidentally, the Mean Green ranked close to the bottom in rushing defense and struggled to score all season. Given the performance of North Texas on the road in recent seasons, this may not fare well for the Mean Green. On the other hand, UNT picked up some significant defensive transfers this offseason, including defensive end Josh Wheeler and linebacker William Johnson. This game will be an excellent show of how much the team has improved from last season or stayed consistent with their past performance.