Date: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. CST
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX
Series Record: SMU leads, 31-6-1
Last Meeting: North Texas won in 2018, 46-23
Betting Line: SMU -3, O/U 73
No matter how great the recruiting class looks, there will always be questions coming into week one. Some of those were answered for the Mean Green, and we’ll see how they shore up these problem areas as they head 30 miles south down I-35 to Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
UNT looked good in week one with Mason Fine returning for his senior year with the regular heroics — 383 passing yards, four touchdowns, and a single interception. This certainly looks like a smooth transition under new OC Bodie Reeder.
Also putting up big numbers was WR Rico Bussey Jr., who amassed more yards than the top two ACU receivers combined, adding 156 yards and a TD to his career total. New year, same great show up in Denton, and when the Green are firing on all cylinders, they really are a sight to behold.
Not improved from last season, at least so far, is the thoroughly average running game. Granted, when your quarterback is Mason Fine, maybe you don’t need it so much, but as the opponents get tougher this season, more options will be needed to move the ball down field. As we should all know by now, this is what wins conference championships.
DeAndre Torrey is an asset to the Mean Green and put up some good numbers last week, carrying 11 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. This is enough to beat Abilene Christian, despite the FCS squad outrushing UNT overall, once you ignore the negative yardage from the Wildcats’ QB. The Mustangs, on the other hand, is a different story.
As up and down as the UNT defense has been under Seth Littrell, the game was not as close as the 51-31 final score would lead you to believe, with the last two opposing scores coming in the 4th quarter. But still, though SMU isn’t exactly Clemson, North Texas can’t let their foot up off the gas at any point this week, or that dream of ten wins will slip away for yet another year.
But hey, there are worse problems to have. Week One was a fine-tuning, and this 2019 squad showed all the potential they need, on both sides of the ball. Now, in Week Two, they must make good on that potential.
Last week was a big week for the American, with a pair of AAC squads knocking off Power Five competition. The Mustangs were not one of those squads, instead going toe-to-toe in an incredibly competitive game against a very dangerous Arkansas State squad.
SMU quarterback Shane Buechele went back and forth with Red Wolves QB Logan Bonner, the two finishing with 360 and 324 yards passing, respectively. But where that yardage amassed the Red Wolves four touchdowns, the Mustangs had zero scores through the air, and three touchdowns via— wait for it— running back Xavier Jones.
Jones proved adept at knocking over the Red Wolves defense, racking up those three scores on only 56 rushing yards. This means the Mean Green will have their work cut out for them in Week Two, particularly at the goal line, just as SMU will need to stop a fierce passing game for the second week in a row.
In the air, Reggie Roberson, Jr. led the Mustang offense with 180 yards on 11 receptions. This is passable (no pun intended), but one of Mason Fine’s strengths is to be able to throw the ball anywhere, often racking up numbers with three or four receivers during a game. SMU will need more than one primary target if they want to escape on Saturday.
Sonny Dykes continues to make great strides in his second full season at the helm, and there was a lot of reason for optimism after the first week. North Texas will prove to be an even bigger test, as we wait and see what kind of year it will be for both squads.
The SMU defense was a brick wall last week, holding ASU to under 100 yards rushing. But the thing about a brick wall is, you can also throw stuff over it, which no doubt contributed to the huge passing yards on both sides of the ball.
Bonner is a good quarterback and will go far in the Sun Belt this year, but he’s no Mason Fine. SMU will need to find an answer to that particular equation if they want to stay competitive once conference play starts.
There’s a lot to like about both of these teams, and it’s important to stress that this will absolutely be a fun game to watch, which is why we’re all here. It doesn’t appear SMU’s 2019 squad has gelled enough to stop UNT’s passing game, but UNT’s defense still seems to be overly concerned with letting the offense fix things for them. This only gets a team so far.
Tellingly, the line has dropped from -3.5 to -3 this week, a sign that despite conference affiliation, bettors are getting wise to this match-up, playing its sixth year in a row after a long break. Sonny Dykes continues to rebuild, but like so many before them, they’ll likely be overwhelmed by Mason Fine again. North Texas 46, SMU 35