North Texas Daily

Behind enemy lines: UNT vs SMU predictions

Behind enemy lines: UNT vs SMU predictions

Behind enemy lines: UNT vs SMU predictions
September 09
22:40 2015

Editor’s Note: In collaboration with the SMU Daily Campus, the North Texas Daily has compiled predictions from the senior staff and sports editors from both publications.

Brian O’Donnell | Sports Editor, The Daily Campus

SMU 42 | UNT 34

It’s no secret that SMU was completely embarrassed by UNT last season. It’s also no secret that last season was a complete train wreck for SMU football.

So much has changed in a year from the Mustangs’ perspective. Chad Morris replaced June Jones at the helm, hoping to revive the storied SMU program after years of mediocrity. The first game against Baylor, despite the loss, showed that he has brought a new attitude to this team. Matt Davis is finally the starting quarterback in an offense that suits his talents well and will allow him to play freely. Without the distraction that was the quarterback carousel of 2014, the SMU offense is more focused and will be more productive.

The Baylor game showed that this offense is significantly better than it was a year ago. They put up more points in one half than they did in almost two months last season!

All that being said, I have to give credit to UNT. The Mean Green are a program on the rise and I am expecting them to bounce back from a down year, but I’m taking the Mustangs this week in a shootout.

Patrick Engel | Sports Writer, The Daily Campus

SMU 31 | UNT 14

SMU has done a complete 180 since last year’s debacle in Denton. That sounds like a silly thing to say after last week’s loss to Baylor, but SMU proved that it could keep pace with one of the nation’s best for the good part of three quarters. Even though no one cares for moral victories, hanging with Baylor gave the Mustangs confidence.

SMU has a bad taste in its mouth about every game from last season, but this one means a little more. Chad Morris called UNT a “good football team,” so there’s not a lack of respect from SMU. On the field, SMU is bigger and faster than it was a year ago, and I don’t think the Mean Green will be able to match the tempo and improved speed and strength. SMU gave away last year’s game with three self-inflicted first-half turnovers and poor special teams play. I don’t expect either of those to be an issue this year.

And last of all, I just don’t think UNT is good enough or explosive enough to match the Mustangs. SMU jumps out to an early lead and rolls in front of another good home crowd.

Scott Sidway | Sports Editor, North Texas Daily

UNT 26 | SMU 24

It’s been a long 287 days since the Mean Green have played a meaningful football game, and everyone from head coach Dan McCarney to the water boys is amped and ready to see a team opposite of them that wears something other than green and white.

One would think that having the extra week to prepare would be considered advantageous in the eyes of North Texas. Rather, McCarney and company have lamented the extra week, saying that SMU has one week under their belt of real game action to help them shake off the pre-season cobwebs and familiarize themselves with the game-day routine.

Off-week aside, North Texas has plenty of kinks to work out themselves. They are returning only one offensive lineman from what was arguably their strongest position group last season. They lost the heart of their defense, linebacker Derek Akunne, who accounted for nearly 50 more tackles than the second leading tackler on the team (who, by the way, also graduated). They also lost the brain of their defense, losing defensive coordinator John Skladany to a fishing boat off the coast of Florida. Alright, let’s just call that retirement.

But with every question, there is an answer. North Texas recruited a handful of quality JUCO transfers on the defensive side of the ball that are poised to make an immediate impact. A steady hand seems to be firmly planted at quarterback after a tumultuous 2014 that consisted of three different starters and the furthest thing from consistency.

And let’s not forget mercurial guard Sam Rice, who had some not-so-kind words about his former Mustang teammates and is licking his chops to lay a hit or two on a select few SMU players. His new teammates have his back too, regardless of the “he said, she said” war of words between the sides.

SMU cannot go anywhere but up after last season. The jury is still out on North Texas. But while the Mustangs have some sense of satisfaction, albeit small, after hanging with Baylor throughout the first half last weekend, the Mean Green has been itching to wash a sour taste out of its mouth for nearly 300 days.

It probably won’t be pretty, but the intensity will be rampant on both sides.

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer, North Texas Daily

SMU 27 | UNT 17
After a long offseason that seemed to never end for North Texas, especially with its first week bye, the Mean Green will take the field on Saturday against Southern Methodist University. This will be the 2015 season debut for North Texas, and here are a few things I expect to see:
A fired up team – I’ve interviewed these guys since the start of fall camp in August and all of them, even head coach Dan McCarney are ready to go. They talked about having a countdown clock in the locker room and have agonized about how slowly the days have ticked by. Couple that with Sam Rice’s SMU homecoming and the fact that this is a rivalry game, I expect to see plenty of hype and possibly some mistakes stemming from all the adrenaline.
A new look offense – North Texas finished 2014 at 4-8 and struggled mightily at quarterback, cycling through three different guys. They threw as many touchdowns as they did interceptions (13.) You don’t need to be a math major to know that’s not a good statistic. Nevertheless, they seem to have their man in senior Andrew McNulty, but it will be interesting to see how the offense flows. McCarney and offensive coordinator Mike Canales have promised a more spread attack that would open the passing game up to take some shots downfield. North Texas, especially under McCarney has always been a run-first offense. Will they stick with the plan to air it out?
A younger, less experienced defense – Defensive coordinator John Skladany retired this offseason and North Texas brought in Chris Cosh, who has coached under the likes of Bill Snyder and Lou Holtz to be the DC. The Mean Green have always prided themselves on defense but were subpar last year. With guys like Derek Akunne, who led the team and Conference USA in tackles in 2014 gone, you have to wonder if North Texas will struggle on this side of the ball.
Prediction: I may go to school at North Texas, but I’m a realist before an optimist, and I’m certainly not a homer. SMU was bad last year. But they have a new coach and new leadership. And after seeing SMU hang with No. 4 Baylor for the entire first half last week, I shudder to think what North Texas’ sometimes anemic offense will do. Can’t wait to see the feedback this gets on campus, but I’ll go with the Ponies.

Featured Image: File Photo

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