SMU (0-0) and North Texas (1-0) face off for the 41st time in the history of the “rivalry” game, a matchup that dates back to 1922. The Mustangs hold a 34-6-1 all-time record in the series and have won the last three meetings.
But North Texas head coach Seth Littrell doesn’t care about that.
“Nothing matters in the past, there’s no parallels,” impressed Littrell in Tuesday’s team press conference. “Every year is a new year, every week is a new week and that’s how I look at it.”
We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
Or something. It’s hard to believe Littrell wouldn’t even look back on 2018, when the Mean Green defeated SMU 46-23, holding the Mustangs to under 30 points. But he stood firm when asked about it, countering that every year of football must be viewed through a lens.
“This is a whole different team,” insisted Littrell. “If you really think about it, it was their first year as a coaching staff with Sonny and we had an experienced group – it was Year 3 under our system. But now we have a new coordinator, they haven’t gone against each other as of yet. So yeah, I think every year is different, every year is new.”
The Oklahoma native is entering his seventh year at the helm of the Mean Green, a pillar of consistency during a turbulent time in the Texas college football landscape. Of the 12 FBS college football teams in the Lone Star State, North Texas is the only one with the same head coach in the last seven years while the other 11 schools have averaged almost three head coaches during that span.
How does the former Oklahoma running back do it?
“I’m always trying to work on culture and always trying to get good enough to compete in conference championships and win bowl games,” explained Littrell. “And we still haven’t accomplished that mission and that’s what drives us every year. To be honest with you, I’m not really focused in on what anybody else thinks. I know what we have, I know what we are. I’m proud of who we are.”
So who is North Texas this year?
In the Mean Green’s Week Zero 31-13 win over in-state opponent UTEP, we got a taste of what North Texas brings to the table – balance and efficiency on offense, physicality on defense and resiliency running through the whole roster.
“The biggest thing is having mental toughness enough to overcome some adversity early,” preached Littrell. “I thought our team handled it very well - there’s going to be adversity in each and every game and obviously the team that can overcome it the quickest is usually the one that’s going to have success.”
So what does that mean for tomorrow’s game against the team across the street?
“What you can take out of it is that we are good enough to play with those guys and we are good enough to beat them,” said Littrell. “We just need to play well, play complimentary football. I know they’re not going to beat themselves. I know [SMU Head Coach] Rhett [Lashlee], Rhett is a great coach – they have a lot of great coaches over there. I know he’s excited about his team, they’re a very athletic team.”
I for one am excited for the matchup – it will be like watching a tank drive into (and possibly on top of) a Porsche 911. Think Fast and the Furious meets Monster Jam.
In the spirit of Texas football and the fact that Littrell has coached against the three different SMU skippers - Chad Morris, Sonny Dykes and Rhett Lashlee, I decided to have a little fun with him and attempt to play a Mustang edition of MFK. If you don’t know what that means, Google it.
Instead of the traditional categories, Littrell was offered the following: golf with, room with, wedding crash with.
“I’ll take Sonny to all three of them, I don’t know the other two like that so I wouldn’t take them anywhere and I damn sure wouldn’t room with them,” laughed Littrell. “Sonny and I are real tight – his kids are like my godchildren, our wives are best friends – I play a lot of golf with Sonny.”
SMU hosts TCU in Week 4 so by the end of September, we will know which team firmly holds DFW’s soul in its capable hands.