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North Texas vs. SMU preview: Mean Green look to snap losing skid against Mustangs

North Texas vs. SMU preview: Mean Green look to snap losing skid against Mustangs

Then freshman quarterback Mason Fine (6) runs down the sidelines against Southern Methodist University. Courtesy | Mean Green Athletics

North Texas vs. SMU preview: Mean Green look to snap losing skid against Mustangs
September 06
14:44 2017

Another chapter in the Southern Methodist University-North Texas rivalry will be written Saturday night at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas. The two teams are coming off 45 and 44-point home wins, respectively, in week one.

The rivalry

In their 36 previous meetings, SMU had a massive edge on the Mean Green with a 30-5-1 series record. The Mean Green have only won once in 25 tries on the road.

Some players said it’s just another game, while others admitted squaring off with the Mustangs has been a focal point in practice leading up to the game. 

“[They’re our] cross-town rival,” junior cornerback Nate Brooks said. “Our cross town rival, the big guys in Dallas. We also have friends who play for SMU too so we talk smack throughout the year.”

The home-field advantage

The Mean Green have not played well in Dallas against the Mustangs historically. UNT is aiming to neutralize that advantage by bussing students to the game for a small fee. 

Maybe this year is different. SMU was defeated at home four times in six games last season, including losses to the University of Memphis and University of South Florida.

While this North Texas team is not young by any means, it will be interesting to see if they can finally win a big game on the road under head coach Seth Littrell.

Courtland Sutton

This guy gets a whole subhead to himself.

The 6-foot-3-inch Courtland Sutton eviscerated the Mean Green secondary last year, finishing the game with 162 yards and three touchdowns on just four receptions. As a projected lock to go in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft in April 2018, Sutton will undoubtedly have all eyes on him as soon as he steps on the field.

Junior Nate Brooks will most likely take the responsibility of covering Sutton when the Mean Green go man-to-man, but Littrell knows they’ll have to change it up and stay sharp against the Mustangs’ top receiver.

“It’s a great challenge,” Littrell said. “He’s a special player and our guys know that. Obviously our coaches have to make sure we put [our defense] in the position to have success. I know our guys are excited about the matchup and it’ll be a great challenge.”

X’s and O’s

Littrell and his players said they saw a lot of similarities between the Mustangs’ offense and their own on film. This should make it easier to prepare, especially since these two teams are so familiar with each other’s personnel.

SMU will likely pass the ball much more than the Mean Green on Saturday. With redshirt sophomore Ben Hicks in his second year and coming off a season where he had 422 attempts, the expectation is that he will reduce his interceptions significantly from 15 and be much more efficient.

North Texas running back Jeffery Wilson and the offensive line will be able to control the clock and have a solid game rushing, but sophomore quarterback Mason Fine will need to make good decisions for North Texas to pull it out. Fine was 15-of-21 with three touchdowns a week ago and appeared much sharper and more comfortable than last year.

Both teams will be coming off games where their starters did not have to do much. With dominant wins over FCS opponents and will be facing their first test on Saturday. Whoever adjusts to the speed first will likely be in a good position to win.

While SMU is favored, there are several ways North Texas can pull this out. The Mean Green will have to win the turnover battle and hold Sutton in check if they want a chance to win. 

“It’ll be an exciting game and we’re excited about the challenge,” Littrell said. “It’ll be fun.”

Score prediction: SMU 31 North Texas 27

Featured Image: Then freshman quarterback Mason Fine (6) runs down the sidelines against Southern Methodist University. Courtesy | Mean Green Athletics

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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