Like the rest of C-USA this week, North Texas has announced its official 2017 football schedule and things just keep getting better for the Mean Green.
As the school prepares to build on its 2016 success, noticeably absent were some key losses from last year, making this years schedule everything a rebuilding program needs.
2017 Mean Green Football Schedule! #UNTouchable #NewDenton pic.twitter.com/A6g6PeVnp3— North Texas Gridiron (@UNTGridiron) January 26, 2017
2017 North Texas Mean Green Football Schedule
9/2 vs Lamar
9/9 @ SMU
9/16 @ Iowa
9/23 vs UAB
9/30 @ Southern Miss
10/7 BYE WEEK
10/14 vs UTSA
10/21 @ FAU
10/28 vs Old Dominion
11/4 @ Louisiana Tech
11/11 vs UTEP
11/18 vs Army
11/25 @ Rice
While you’ll see some familiar faces on the list, this is a year where scheduling with C-USA East has worked wholeheartedly in UNT’s favor, as the Mean Green play neither WKU nor Middle Tennessee (both losses last year).
We’ll revisit this again in the summer once we’ve had a better look at signees and how the individual teams click together, but for now let’s take a closer look at this year’s final itinerary:
Located in Beaumont, Texas, a scant one hour east of Houston, Lamar University restarted its football program in 2010 after a 20-year absence. Since then they’ve been a member of the Southland Conference, the FCS conference with the largest Texas footprint, and in 2016 went 3-8 (3-6). Following their underwhelming showing last season the Cardinals fired Ray Woodard, the only head coach that program has known since their 2010 return. Fresh for 2017 the program has hired Mike Schultz in the hopes of returning (or rather, arriving for the first time) atop the Southland standings.
From 2003-2011, North Texas didn’t play any FCS teams at all, finally putting them back on the schedule for a 2012 game against Texas Southern that UNT won 34-7. Then in 2013, North Texas took the year off, before shellacking Nicholls State 77-3 in 2014. This perhaps created a false sense of confidence, as the following year was the infamous Portland State game which has been mentioned here often enough that we don’t need to go into it again. Fortunately, North Texas improved enough to defeat Bethune-Cookman in 2016, and all signs point to a similarly confident victory over the Cardinals come September.
In short, a rebuilding FCS program shouldn’t be an issue for North Texas, but after the last couple of seasons we’re not taking anything for granted. Still, UNT has a Southland school on its schedule every year through at least 2020, so maybe let’s all start following their standings.
Returning to play SMU in Dallas after last year’s 34-21 loss in Denton, this will be the litmus test on how much the Mean Green have improved from one year to the next. SMU remains in the basement of the AAC and didn’t vastly improve from 2015 to 2016, so North Texas losing by 13 points instead of 18 as they did the previous year can be taken as a good sign.
Still, it’s fun to have a local game against a rival in a major conference, especially when UNT has them on the schedule every year through 2020. Rivalries are fun!
This will be Seth Littrell’s first look at Iowa after former coach Dan McCarney lost to them 61-16 in 2015. Despite North Dakota State topping this (at the time) ranked Hawkeyes squad last year, we don’t expect a victory here. What we do expect is some national exposure against a recently very steady Big Ten team.
Conference opener against the once and future Blazers! While the Mean Green facing the Blazers has probably 420 jokes that could be made about it, we are glad to have UAB back on the schedule and glad to see them back in the conference.
The last time these teams played was Oct. 11, 2014 in Birmingham, with the Blazers winning 56-21. Yes, the Blazers have the same coach. No, the Mean Green do not have the same coach. Will this be a fun game? Yes. Will feelings of brother- and sisterhood between the two programs evaporate by halftime? Probably. But C-USA isn’t complete without the Blazers and UNT isn’t complete until we beat them (UAB leads the series, 2-0).
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
UNT won this game last year as Jay Hopson seemed to struggle making adjustments through the season. Still, with the storied history of the Golden Eagles program, this is a team you want on your schedule every year and one you want to beat. No matter what kind of year they’re having.
This rivalry would mean a lot more to both schools if North Texas would win more often, but this year it’s in Denton and we’ll keep our fingers crossed. In theory, UNT has 17 years practice at this whole “FBS” thing, so they should be dominating UTSA every year, and yet somehow, here we are.
Tragically, Littrell & Co.’s first match-up against some guy named Lane Kiffin will be all the way out in Boca Raton, but Kiffin’s tales of head coaching shenanigans are already the stuff of legend, and the Owls will have a target on their backs no matter how well they produce in 2017.
Old Dominion Monarchs
Despite being members of the same conference since 2013, this will be the first meeting between the two programs. ODU surprised by going 7-1 in the conference last season, making them sound top-tier until you remember that lone blemish was a 59-24 evisceration by WKU.
Still, like UNT, they are a program on the rise and it will be nice to get a first look at the Monarchs. It’s not like we’re beating them in basketball.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Hello Bulldogs, our old friends. A road game in Ruston should in theory be a rivalry game, as only 290 miles separates the two cities. Tech currently leads the series 9-6 and are the only team that stands between UNT (or anyone else) and C-USA West supremacy. So this will be fine.
A program supposedly on the rise that finished 4-8 last year and didn’t fire their coach. One of those 4 wins? Against North Texas in El Paso, 52-24 in the final game of the regular season for both. The Mean Green will be looking for revenge in Denton and if the Miners’ last four seasons are any indication, it will not be pretty.
Army Black Knights
North Texas plays Army for the third time in eleven months. After winning the match up in the regular season and losing the bowl game, North Texas should have these guys figured out by now, right? Another game with national attention, particularly with the winning season Army was able to put together last year. Enjoy the atmosphere, as like SMU, Army also appears annually on UNT’s schedule through at least 2020.
About 300 miles down the interstate are the Rice Owls, a 3-9 team that North Texas needed OT to beat last year. Another revenge game, as anything less than an outright victory would be a step back for UNT, much as the UTEP loss was in 2016.
After a return to respectability at 5-6 (3-5) during last years regular season, the Mean Green need at least two more wins to show real progress and help bolster both attendance and recruitment. This schedule provides exactly that opportunity, as even last year’s team could expect six wins from this schedule, and we’re trusting Littrell and staff to do that and more.
This is a great slate of home games and an extremely manageable conference slate, so if the Green can get past UTSA and if Kiffin turns out to be a bust, North Texas could be a bowl lock long before the last week of the season.