A lot has changed over the last few months since we last looked at who North Texas’ biggest rivals are. One fact that hasn’t changed is that SMU is at the top of the list, especially after the Mustangs’ win in Dallas last season. (DRC file photo)
Last March, we look a look at North Texas’ top rivalries. It was an interesting list in a time of change in Mean Green athletics.
UNT had just gotten out of the Sun Belt Conference at the time and was adjusting to Conference USA. One of the big selling points when UNT made that move is that it would be able to develop some rivalries within the conference and Texas, where the Mean Green seemed to fall off the map once Sun Belt play began each year.
Has anything changed?
In some ways it has, in others, it has remained the same.
Here’s a look at where UNT stands now in terms of rivalries:
1. It’s still SMU, and there really isn’t any question about it
Pretty much nothing went right for UNT last season during a 1-11 football season.
What might have been the worst part of the whole affair for the Mean Green was going to Dallas with high hopes of getting back on track after a 4-8 season and promptly being dumped by SMU 31-13.
UNT fans showed up in droves expecting to see the Mean Green win consecutive games against the Mustangs for the first time in a series that began in 1922. That was understandable considering the Mean Green won 43-6 the year before.
UNT fans paid to fly a “Go Mean Green” banner before the game.
The disappointment of seeing the Mustangs roll UNT and increase their lead in the series to 29-5-1 is something Mean Green fans really never got over last year.
The rematch at Apogee this fall will be intense. The teams have alternated wins in the last six games of the series. A win against SMU would give UNT a chance to say it’s back on track and on equal footing of late with the Mustangs. A loss would be tough for the Mean Green.
2. UTSA because of its rapid rise in college athletics
The nature of the UNT-UTSA rivalry really hasn’t changed in the last few months. UNT got the last laugh, beating the Roadrunners by the skin of their teeth last season 30-23, largely due to a blocked extra point.
In the end it’s still a battle for Texas bragging rights and recruits between a team that has been playing football for 100 years and a team that decided trying this whole football thing might be a good idea in 2008.
Don’t think for a minute that the fact UNT fans don’t resent the fact that UTSA set up shop and ended up in Conference USA in a matter of years, while UNT fought for decades to become an FBS team in a Texas-based league.
3. Middle Tennessee because of the teams’ history.
MTSU and UNT has a terrific history in multiple sports that is always fun to look back on.
The Blue Raiders took a couple of cheap shots at Ja’Mel Branch while he was returning kicks in the early years of the Sun Belt. UNT also knocked off the Blue Raiders 24-21 in 2001, when Middle Tennessee was 5-0 and had one of its best teams in recent program history.
A few years later, in the final game of the 2011 season, UNT ran the score up in a 59-7 season-ending win over the Blue Raiders. MTSU did the same to UNT last year, pounding the Mean Green, 41-7.
The really fun quote and part of the rivalry remains in women’s basketball, though. MTSU has long fielded an elite women’s basketball team that had a heated exchange with UNT a couple of years ago. The Blue Raiders hammered UNT 113-58 in 2009 and ran the score up on a night they hit 13 of their 25 attempts from 3-point range. MTSU kept jacking up 3s in the closing minutes while UNT collapsed in on star forward Alysha Clark.
Anne Marie Lanning hit six of those 3s and then hit UNT with this quote in the next day’s Daily News-Journal.
“I don’t know if we take offense to it, but we’re just like, ‘Are you going to be that stupid?,’” Lanning told the DNJ of UNT’s decision to not guard the 3-point line. “But when they do come out on us, Alysha [Clark] does what she did last week at Troy (50 points).
“They’re in a lose-lose situation. But if they want to be stupid and leave us open, then we’ll put it to you.”
MTSU has been putting it on UNT for years and extended its run of dominance last season, pounding the Mean Green 76-52 for its 13th straight win in the series.
4. UNT men’s basketball vs. Shawn Forrest
Shawn Forrest was once one of the highly respected and valued members of the UNT athletic department who helped Johnny Jones build the Mean Green men’s basketball program into a power that went to two NCAA tournaments. He helped bring great players like Tony Mitchell and Jordan Williams to Denton. Jones left for LSU in 2012.
Forrest wanted to replace Jones, but ended up taking a series of jobs as an assistant and has been a huge thorn in the side of UNT and Tony Benford, the coach who got the job. UNT has faced teams on which Forrest has been an assistant six times since — and lost every single time. Among those six losses are season-enders in the Sun Belt tournament to Louisiana-Lafayette and last season’s Conference USA tournament against Western Kentucky.
Forrest has moved on since and landed at Louisiana Tech, which is naturally one of UNT’s biggest C-USA rivals in the league’s West Division.
5. Louisiana Tech because it does so much with so little
And speaking of Louisiana Tech, the school is quickly developing into a rival for UNT because it does so much with so little and usually has its way with the Mean Green. LA Tech has one of the smaller budgets in C-USA and is located in one of the smaller media markets. The school doesn’t have the greatest facilities, either, even after adding a nice end zone complex in its football stadium.
The Bulldogs have won four of the last five football games between the schools anyway. LA Tech whacked UNT 56-13 last season.
UNT and LA Tech has split the last four meetings in men’s basketball, but it’s been the Bulldogs who have had more success in the postseason.
That isn’t easy for UNT to swallow.