UNT football: Mean Green can launch program to national relevance by beating Arkansas

By Sanderson

Two years ago, North Texas football went 1-11. On Saturday, the Mean Green clinched just the 18th 2-0 start in program history, and first since 1994.

It’s incredible to think how this program has grown. That’s nothing compared to what the Mean Green can accomplish this weekend, as UNT travels five hours east to face off against SEC opponent Arkansas.

UNT is intimately familiar with new Arkansas coach Chad Morris. Morris previously coached at SMU, which the Mean Green face off against each season. In fact, it was Morris’ former players that UNT thrashed 46-23 in the season opener.

However, the level of talent is very different at Arkansas than at SMU. And even still, UNT failed to beat SMU while Morris coached the Mustangs. The task is harder than ever. So is the reward.

If UNT can beat Arkansas, suddenly, the rest of the schedule looks awfully beatable. In fact, the road matchup with Arkansas is the only matchup remaining that ESPN’s FPI ranks the Mean Green as underdogs.

Let’s dream for a second. If UNT beats Arkansas, the Mean Green move to 3-0. The next two toughest games of the season – Louisiana Tech and Florida Atlantic – are both at home. There’s a very real possibility that UNT could go undefeated and win Conference-USA. A one-loss season is certainly within reach.

For comparison, let’s look at the current best Group of Five team: UCF. The defending national champions are underdogs against both Memphis and rival South Florida. C-USA rival FAU has a loss to Oklahoma already, and should add another against UCF. Plus, like we mentioned, FAU has to play UNT in Denton.

Beating Arkansas thrusts UNT right into the discussion for the Group of Five berth into the New Year’s Six. The program’s third 10-win season would obviously be a lock, and then some. Quarterback Mason Fine would have to get some consideration for the Davey O’Brien; maybe he even earns a Heisman invite.

Back to reality. A whole lot of things have to go right for any of this to happen. But still, it’s not totally inconceivable. For any of it to happen, UNT has to come out ready to beat Arkansas on Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville.

Here’s everything you need to know about UNT vs. Arkansas.

UNT vs. Arkansas details

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Date: Sept. 15, 2018

Location: Donald Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark.

What channel is UNT vs. Arkansas on?

UNT vs. Arkansas will be broadcast nationally on SEC Network Alternate. It can also be streamed live on WatchESPN.

How can I buy tickets to UNT vs. Arkansas?

Click here to buy tickets to the UNT vs. Arkansas game in Fayetteville.

UNT vs. Arkansas preview

Everything is Fine

UNT quarterback Mason Fine is one of the best quarterbacks in America, and he’s proved it through two games. The junior leads all quarterbacks that have played two games with 862 passing yards, and has seven touchdowns with just one interception.

Arkansas allowed Colorado State quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels to throw for 389 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday in a win. Fine is better than Carta-Samuels, has a better coach and has better weapons. He should run wild against the Razorbacks.

Inconsistent Razorback offense

Arkansas coach Chad Morris is an offensive innovator, but he doesn’t have the personnel to run what he wants right now. Morris took over for Bret Bielema, a coach who ran mostly power run during his time in Fayetteville.

Quarterbacks Ty Storey and Cole Kelley have both earned significant playing time, but neither has been very effective. The pair combined for just 138 passing yards against Colorado State in Fort Collins. Running back Devwah Whaley has gotten off to a tremendous start with 193 yards and two touchdowns through two games. But still, Morris needs his quarterback dealing to run his offense correctly.

Surprising defense

Through two games, UNT’s defense has been tremendous. The Mean Green allowed 23 points against SMU, but all came in garbage time in the fourth quarter. Incarnate Word got on the board after a 55-yard breakaway run; after that, UNT went on a 31-0 run to end the half.

Linebacker E.J. Ejiya has been a disruptive force through two games. He has 13 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Kemon Hall also has a pair of interceptions. The defense will have to be disruptive to win. Even if Mason Fine outplays the Arkansas offense, the Mean Green still have to create a couple extra opportunities to seal the deal against a talented Razorbacks squad.

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