Welcome to college football Thursday! Woohoo! That's right, for the third time this year, the Hilltoppers have the Thursday night spotlight. In this corner (I don't care which, you can pick), you have a WKU squad who put up 50 points in the first half against their biggest rival in Middle Tennessee. In this corner (the opposite corner), you have a squad who lost to an FCS school by nearly 60 points.
Long story short, this is going to be any interesting matchup.
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. CT
Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton, Tex.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Betting Line: WKU -32.5. Over/Under: 70.0
Realistically, as a fan, this is the game the Mean Green should be the most excited about all season. The last time Mike Canales took over for a fired North Texas coach (a coach who is arguably worse than McCarney, but not by much), he doubled the points scored per game, and rushed for nearly 80 more yards per game. He is an offensive-minded coach who is not afraid to try new things-- unlike both his predecessors-- and has been a steady presence on the team since 2010. When Dodge went, Canales stayed. That says a lot about his talent, or maybe he just really likes hanging out in Denton.
The Mean Green have the tools they need to survive, as backup Damarcus Smith showed brief flashes of life on a play or two this season, but mostly as a backup at Western Kentucky prior to this season. And oh yeah, the last time Mike Canales took over as interim coach? His first opponent: WKU, whom he beat 33-6 with players recruited by a high school coach.
Never has this team had a better chance to NOT go 0-12.
Los Topperes: "Murder."
Thanks for that, Adam. But seriously, this could get very ugly very quickly. Kind of what we saw on Saturday at Smith Stadium. I joked on twitter this past week about how awesome Brandon Doughty is going to be, in Jeff Brohm's quick-strike-then-hold-them offense.
Brandon Doughty is going to throw for like eleventybillion yards and 28 touchdowns on Thursday, and only play the first quarter #WKU— Fletcher Keel (@FletchTopper) October 11, 2015
Now obviously I'm kidding, but I do think we are going to see a similar outcome like we saw with a 28-point opening quarter, and a 52-point first half from the Tops. Last week, I noted how the rushing game has been a concern for me, and then came Ace Wales to the rescue, who rushed for 111 yards on 19 carries. THAT'S a Hilltopper rushing performance we are used to seeing.
Is there danger in this being a trap game with LSU on the horizon next week? Absolutely there is. But the coaches and players are all saying the right things, so I think they'll be focused heading into Denton.
North Texas: Honestly, I don't know what to expect. Eyebrows went up when we predicted a 24-0 Portland State win, and that was based on stats, analysis, and an impending sense of doom. Canales? He could be who he was in 2010 and put up 35 points, he could mirror last week and lose by 35. We have no idea. That's what makes this game so damn exciting!
Oh, we're told we actually have to make a decision and have to actually commit. Well. Even though no particular player has really stood out this season under McCarney (with the possible exception of Carlos Harris), we believe in the potential of this team, and believe Coach Mac was just stuck in his ways, and there's talent here or else why would they be on this team? Canales is gonna find that fire.
Except, y'know, for the part where he's playing 2015 WKU. Western Kentucky 70, North Texas 35.
WKU: North Texas isn't going to just roll over and allow WKU to run all over them. They'll want to play well not only for the departed McCarney, but also for the interim Canales. If Smith is the QB for UNT, he'll want to play well against his former squad. There's a lot riding here for the Mean Green.
Having said all that (the emphasis above is North Texas isn't going to "allow" WKU to run all over them), I still think the Tops roll. The offense has one more test before they face the SEC defense in Baton Rouge, and the defense has one more tune up before having to stop Leonard Fournette. (Lawd.) Give me the Tops, but not as big as Adam. I say 63-21.