Sept. 1 vs SMU
Dekota: This is where it all starts for the Mean Green. North Texas lost to metro rival SMU last season in a 54-32 barn burner the second week of the season in Dallas. The victory extended the Mustangs’ win streak in the Safeway Bowl to three, meaning UNT coach Seth Littrell has yet to beat SMU since taking over in 2015. But this season, SMU has a new headman in Sonny Dykes. It seems as if the Mustangs have had Littrell’s number, but with one of the best offenses in the country coming off an offseason of improvement and starting the season with a home rivalry, I think the Mean Green end SMU’s Safeway Bowl streak and start the season off on a high.
Prediction: 48-31, UNT
Adam: I don’t know if the term “AAC money” is a thing, but that’s really the only worry here. SMU has the funds to recruit and recruit well (in theory), and despite not exactly lighting it up in their current conference, they’ve certainly had UNT’s number. Luckily, last year’s coach Chad Morris is now roaming the sideline at Arkansas (see below). While newcomer Sonny Dykes has proven that he can win at the G5 level during his short stint at Louisiana Tech, I don’t see SMU rising to the same heights under his watch, particularly not in his first game at this job.
Prediction: 35-17, UNT
Sept. 8 vs Incarnate Word
Dekota: This is UNT’s week to relax and pad some stats. Like SMU, Incarnate Word also has a new coach, but that’s expected after posting a 1-10 campaign last season. Not much else to say other than expect Mason Fine and Co. to near some records in this one before being pulled early.
Prediction: 58-13, UNT
Adam: The second in their 1,000 year agreement with the Southland conference, UNT walloped Lamar in this slot last year for what was a fun game with some in-state rivals. UIW hasn’t been at the FBS level very long, but growing pains mean paycheck games. Honestly, as a UNT fan, it’s nice to be on the payee side of this. It’s also nice to feel confident about beating a team from San Antonio.
Prediction: 63-7, UNT
Sept. 15 at Arkansas
Dekota: This is easily UNT’s toughest road game of the season, with the Mean Green playing in an SEC environment in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The last time that happened, Florida shut UNT out in Fine’s second career start as a freshman. The Mean Green also haven’t beaten a Power 5 opponent on the road in the 21st century. That’s a tough hump to get over, but if there’s a time to do it, one would think it’s with a plethora of stars returning against a team coming off a 4-8 season. But no matter what, that Razorback defense in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium will be the toughest task of the season for Fine, who will be playing only 66 miles from his hometown of Locust Grove, Oklahoma. Being optimistic, I think UNT is slowed down but still narrowly wins.
Prediction: 27-24, UNT
Adam: Ugh. There’s a lot to weigh in on here, but I look at it like this: Chad Morris has our number. He beat UNT every year he was at SMU, despite an underwhelming record elsewhere and arguably a premature promotion to this job. The counterargument is he puts up yardage (if not wins), but at the same time, he’s inheriting that same 4-8 Razorback team who start the season ranked lower than the Arkansas State Red Wolves. As a fan I really want to predict an upset here — and would it even be an upset? But as a sportswriter, SMU was similarly banged up when Morris took that job, and handed UNT their ass. I don’t want to talk about it.
Prediction: 34-21, Arkansas
Sept. 22 at Liberty
Dekota: This week, the Mean Green will most likely either have to bounce back from a high or their first loss of the season. Fortunately for UNT, it’s against Liberty, which will start its first season in the FBS. Although the Mean Green can’t take Liberty too lightly after the Flames beat Baylor in Waco last season, UNT should leave there unscathed.
Prediction: 48-23, UNT
Adam: I like Turner Gill a lot and have followed him since he turned Buffalo into anything other than a last-place MAC team (in fact taking them to their first bowl in decades). This hire by upstart Liberty shows they have the money, but can they attract the talent? We’ll find out, but I don’t see this one working out for the Flames.
Prediction: 56-17 UNT
Sept. 29 vs Louisiana Tech
Dekota: Fans always prepare for a hiccup during their team’s season, and this could be it for UNT. Louisiana Tech let a win slip away last season on its field, 24-23. Despite some crazy things going on there right now with players leaving almost every day, I don’t think it’ll matter by then for a team that seemed better than its 7-6 record last year. The season ended with a 51-10 bowl win against SMU, and that game’s standout, quarterback J’Mar Smith, is back this season. This could be a game UNT ends up winning pretty easily, but I think this will be the game that the Mean Green wish they could get back.
Prediction: 34-31, La Tech
Adam: Last year’s game was awesome, and I expect the Bulldogs will have a chip on their shoulder. On the other hand, UNT is even more improved, has added talent, and shored up their defense. And it’s at home. This is a dangerous match-up and I could be proven wrong by injuries, weather, or a fluke play, but I’m comfortable calling it now.
Prediction: 28-21, UNT
Oct. 6 at UTEP
Dekota: Coming off a win or a loss, I don’t think UTEP will be a tough task for the Mean Green. UNT handled the Miners 45-10 last season, and I expect a similar outcome this time around.
Prediction: 49-10, UNT
Adam: Is there anything to add? I want to hate on UTEP, but North Texas was in the same boat literally three years ago. You can do it, Miners. Just not this year.
Prediction: 48-3, UNT
Oct. 13 vs Southern Miss
Dekota: Southern Miss isn’t a team to mess around with after an 8-5 campaign a season ago. But just like last year’s 43-28 win, I think it’ll be another victory for UNT at Apogee Stadium.
Prediction: 38-24, UNT
Adam: I like that this one’s at home, especially after beating these guys on their home field a year ago. I like this team, and I generally fear for my safety around USM fans. But 8-5 seems to be Jay Hopson’s ceiling and this team doesn’t scare me.
Prediction: 45-21, UNT
Oct. 20 at UAB
Dekota: This could be another tricky game for UNT. The two had a shootout last season in Denton, with the Mean Green coming out on top, 46-43. This time, the game will be in Birmingham, and the Blazers, like UNT, return most of their talent on offense. Both teams also have defenses that could be struggling by this point. Expect another back-and-forth game you can’t hold your breath during.
Prediction: 52-48, UNT
Adam: UAB hit the ground running last year, and shattered all expectations. I am fully expecting this year to be more of the same, and I am more excited for this game than anything else on our schedule. Prediction? 100+ points. Prediction? Hearts will be broken. Prediction? Highlights on ESPN.
Prediction: 63-50, UNT
Oct. 27 vs Rice
Dekota: Rice is the first of two games UNT will need to take care of before hosting defending Conference USA champion Florida Atlantic. It’ll be a win for the Mean Green, but seeing improvement from the defense will be the biggest objective.
Prediction: 41-17, UNT
Adam: Back home at Apogee, a much more comfortable, perfunctory game against our in-state competition. The Owls are breaking in a new coach this year, but like UTEP, immediate success is not expected.
Prediction: 42-7, UNT
Nov. 10 at Old Dominion
Dekota: This will be similar to the Rice game, just on the road. UNT will need to put Old Dominion away early to maybe get its starters some extra rest before the next week.
Prediction: 45-23, UNT
Adam: The Mean Green had never played the Monarchs prior to last year’s 45-38 victory in Denton. This year they’re on the road, and while that does give me pause, I don’t see ODU showing up with an offense like the one #NewDenton has been enjoying at home.
Prediction: 38-24, UNT
Nov. 15 (Thurs) vs Florida Atlantic
Dekota: This is the game circled on UNT’s calendar. Florida Atlantic thumped the Mean Green twice last season, and the second time was for the C-USA title. Both games were in Boca Raton last year, so this will be UNT’s first crack at the Owls in Denton since Lane Kiffin took over. But in Kiffin’s second season at the helm, FAU is only better, especially on offense despite replacing an offensive coordinator with 25-year-old Charlie Weis Jr. So it’ll be a C-USA conference championship rematch on a weeknight between two potent offenses. Things will definitely get crazy and this will be a game worth watching for any college football team. Unfortunately for UNT, the Owls just have too much firepower and could even be in the top 25 by this point, especially if they give Oklahoma fits Week 1, which I think FAU will do.
Prediction: 55-45, FAU
Adam: Earlier I said that UAB was the game I was most looking forward to, and that’s because where UNT has circled this game, I have cut it out of my calendar and set it on fire. I want to support my team and believe they can work hard and achieve anything, but Kiffin thumped us twice last year, and I daresay home field advantage will not be enough — plus this is a short week, on five days of rest after traveling to Virginia. Dekota and I agree on FAU possibly taking out OU, but that’s for someone else’s preview. The Mean Green, for all their offensive talent, would not do so well.
Prediction: 55-42, FAU
Nov. 24 at UTSA
Dekota: This was another nail-biter for UNT last season that ended with Fine on his back after completing a drive that went down in Mean Green history. This could be another trap game for the Mean Green against a team seeking revenge, but there will be too much on the line for UNT. This could be a must-win for the Mean Green in order to get their own revenge against FAU and secure another shot at a conference title.
Prediction: 48-27, UNT
Adam: UTSA has been a lot more fun recently, and I have to respect any fan base that talks that much trash despite having no team until just a few years ago. The Alamodome has proved tricky for a lot of visiting teams, particularly those that are pass-happy. This game was so close last year, and I think UTSA definitely will not make that mistake again. Alternatively, I think UNT won’t let the score differential get so bad in the first place, that they need last-second heroics.
Prediction: 35-31, UNT