North Texas coach Dan McCarney, center, and the Mean Green will look to improve on a 4-8 finish this season. (DRC file photo)
UNT head coach Dan McCarney mentioned when I was talking to him this week that the country comes alive when it’s time for the start of college football season.
There are certain signs that the season is almost upon us — the weather cools off and the excitement builds.
And, perhaps most importantly, we make our annual call here on the blog to “Get Your Rear on the Record.”
The annual exercise should be familiar to most UNT fans. Each season, we ask UNT fans and blog readers to send in their picks for the Mean Green’s record to firstname.lastname@example.org. We record them and list them all on the blog for everyone to see. The exercise gives us the pulse of the Mean Green Nation.
Better yet, I dig them up at the end of the season to see who made the right call.
The defending champion this year is Andrew Morris, who correctly picked UNT to fall into a 4-8 abyss after finishing 9-4 and winning the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2013. Andrew took a look at the roster and correctly projected:
1. Yes, UNT would miss Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP Derek Thompson at quarterback, 2. It would not be easy to fill the voids left by a host of standout players like Zach Orr and Marcus Trice and that, 3. Being a team everyone else in Conference USA was looking to knock off would make a difference.
Our defending “Ridiculous Homers of the Year” are John Lowe (Eagle83) and Darren Foyt (EagleD), who both picked UNT to finish 11-3 last season, and missed it by a smidge. Ok, seven wins.
We don’t have a defending “Fan with Little Faith” this time around, for obvious reasons.
And that brings us to this year.
I am already on the record as having picked UNT to finish 5-7 this year. The Dallas Morning News ran interactive previews of the college teams they cover that included season records picks.
What I haven’t written about is how I reached that total.
UNT could be better this year — a lot better. UNT appears to have really helped itself with its incoming recruiting class. There are a host of junior college additions who will upgrade the Mean Green’s talent level, including safety James Gray, linebacker Cortney Finney and defensive end Jareid Combs.
There are a host of players on UNT’s roster who will have improved over last year, including quarterback Andrew McNulty.
There are a few key factors that prevent me from picking UNT to win six games and become bowl eligible, starting off with the Mean Green’s schedule.
This has been discussed extensively over the last few months, but the slate is brutal. The Mean Green have two Body Bag/Opportunity games this year at Tennessee and Iowa, play 12 straight weeks without a bye, have only five home games and drew the top three teams in Conference USA East Division in Western Kentucky, Marshall and Middle Tennessee in crossover games.
UNT could be dramatically better this year and still not win six games.
The Mean Green also have an uncertain quarterback situation to a certain extent. Andrew McNulty will open the season as UNT’s starter — there is no doubt about that. But he was also the third starter up last season after UNT ran through Josh Greer and Dajon Williams.
McCarney named improving at quarterback a top priority heading into the offseason. And UNT still has the same starting quarterback.
UNT is confident in McNulty, but one has to wonder how long the leash is.
I also hesitate to assume that UNT will be able to seamlessly replace all-conference caliber players who graduate. UNT lost two in Derek Akunne and James Jones on defense and also lost four of its five starters on a good offensive line.
There is a lot to like about UNT heading into the season, and other factors that are a worry.
What are your thoughts?
Be sure to Get Your Rear on the Record in the next few days.