A look at UNT’s 2013 football schedule (Part 1)

This is the first of a two-part blog series looking at UNT’s football schedule for 2013. A lot of people have weighed in since it was released. I waited a bit for people to let it sink in. Today, we look at the teams on UNT’s slate, what they have coming back next year and the bottom line in terms of the importance of the game to UNT’s prospects next season and other reasons why the game could be big for the program from recruiting rivalries, to fan interest.

I will come back later with an overall look at what is realistic considering what UNT is facing.

Aug. 31 – Idaho

2012 record – 1-11

Returning starters – Nine offense, five defense

About Idaho — Idaho hired longtime assistant Paul Petrino, who was Arkansas’ offensive coordinator, in the off-season after a terrible finish in 2012. The Vandals have nine offensive and five defensive starters set to return, but kicked quarterback Dominique Blackman off the team in the middle of last season after he threw for 1,610 yards.

Bottom line – UNT paid to bring Texas Southern in for a nearly guaranteed win last year and is going the same route with Idaho next year. The Vandals should be down – way down – next season. UNT is rolling out throwback jerseys and making a big production out of its first opener at home since 2001. UNT has to win this one. Expect mass panic among the fandom if it doesn’t.

Sept. 7 – at Ohio

2012 record – 9-4 (Beat Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl)

Returning starters – Eight offense, four defense

About Ohio – The Bobcats beat Penn State in their opener and won their first seven games before stumbling down the stretch. Ohio lost four of five before righting the ship at beating Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl. Ohio has 12 starters returning and should be good again next year. Tyler Tettleton threw for 2,844 yards, Donte Foster caught 59 passes for 659 yards and Ben Blankenship rushed for 1,604.

Bottom line – This will be a really tough game for UNT on the road. Ohio has its key skill position players back on offense, not to mention the core of what should be a pretty good defense.

Sept. 14 – Ball State

2012 record – 9-4 (Lost to UCF in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl)

Returning starters – Seven offense, eight defense

About Ball State – The Cardinals posted one of their best seasons in years, winning six straight games before falling to UCF in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. Ball State has a trio of key offensive players returning in quarterback Keith Wenning, running back Jahwan Edwards and wide receiver Willie Snead. Wenning threw for 3,095 yards, Edwards rushed for 1,410 and Snead finished with 89 catches for 1,148 yards and nine touchdowns.

Bottom line – Ball State will present a pretty big challenge at home for UNT. The Cardinals should enter the season on a roll and have the core players from its offense returning. Like Ohio, a game against Ball State does not rank high on the list of potential wins.

Sept. 21 – at Georgia

2012 record – 12-2 (Beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl)

Returning starters – 11 offense, four defense

About Georgia – UNT caught a bad break when quarterback Aaron Murray decided to not declare for the NFL draft. Murray threw for 3,893 yards and 36 touchdowns last season. Todd Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards. Georgia will have to reload on defense after linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alex Ogletree declared for the draft, but there will be players waiting to step in at a program like Georgia. It’s the SEC.

Bottom line – Yeah, UNT beat Tennessee in 1975. Georgia will be ranked. Tennessee wasn’t. UNT is 1-43 all-time against ranked teams and has lost its last its last 35 games against ranked opponents since beating No. 20 San Diego State in 1974. This game amounts to a check-passing like one would see at halftime of a basketball game.

TBD – Rice

2012 record – 7-6 (Beat Air Force in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl)

Returning starters – Eight offense, 10 defense

About Rice – The gang is all back from a pretty good Rice team that won at Kansas and finished the season on a five-game winning streak. Taylor McHargue threw for 2,209 yards, while Charles Ross rushed for 800. Rice’s defense held four of its final seven opponents to 17 points or less.

Bottom line – This will be a high-profile game for UNT, especially at home. It will also be a tough game for UNT to win.

TBD – UTSA

2012 record – 8-4

Returning starters – 10 offense, nine defense

About UTSA – The Roadrunners have most of their starters back from last season, when they won eight games, including victories over New Mexico State and Idaho. The rest of UTSA’s schedule was very soft as the program made the transition to the FBS level. Quarterback Eric Soza, a transfer from Texas State, is pretty short at 6-foot-0, but threw for 2,085 yards and 20 touchdowns last season.

Bottom line – UTSA is a team UNT has to beat. Has to. The Roadrunners are just getting their program off the ground, while UNT has been in it for 100 years. If UTSA beats UNT, people will have to hide all sharp objects from the Mean Green faithful, who just might carve their eyes out with sporks.

TBD – UTEP

2012 record – 3-9
Returning starters – Seven offense, six defense

About UTEP – Sean Kugler, a longtime NFL assistant, took over at UTEP following the departure of Mike Price. Kugler hired former UNT assistant Spencer Leftwich to coach the Miners offensive line. UTEP has 13 starters returning, but lost quarterback Nick Lamaison. Running back Nathan Jeffery returns after rushing for 897 yards.

Bottom line – It’s hard to pick out a whole lot of wins for UNT on its schedule. This is a game UNT has to win if it wants to challenge for a bowl game. Beating UTEP would also give UNT a win over another Texas team, an achievement that has been rare over the last several years.

TBD – Middle Tennessee

2012 record – 8-4

Returning starters – Eight offense, nine defense

About MTSU – The Blue Raiders joined the Belt Bolters in moving from the Sun Belt to C-USA and will have an experienced team back that should be hungry next year. MTSU was left out of the bowl season despite finishing 8-4. Logan Kilgore, who killed UNT to the tune of 349 passing yards last year, will be a senior. He threw for 2,571 yards on the year.

Bottom line – The UNT-MTSU series was the closest thing the Mean Green had to a rivalry in the Sun Belt. UNT had won the two straight in the series, including a 59-7 beat-down in 2011, before MTSU came back to beat the Mean Green 38-21 last year. This is another one of those games that will be important if UNT wants to get to six wins.

TBD – at Tulane

2012 record – 2-10

Returning starters – Eight offense, seven defense

About Tulane – Curtis Johnson, a New Orleans native and longtime college and NFL assistant, is entering his second year at Tulane. He had a tough first year, but did beat SMU and UAB with a pretty young squad. Ryan Griffin threw for 2,771 yards as a senior. Nick Montana, the son of Hall of Famer Joe Montana, appears likely to take over.

Bottom line – UNT likes to recruit Louisiana and Tulane has clearly developed into a pain in the Mean Green’s side (or other part of the anatomy, to be honest). Tulane has beaten UNT head-to-head on several players and appears to be gradually building its talent base. Outside of the games against Texas opponents on UNT’s schedule, this might be UNT’s biggest game.

TBD – at Tulsa

2012 record – 11-3 (beat Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl)

Returning starters – Eight offense, three defense

About Tulsa – The Golden Hurricane had a great year, winning 11 games and taking out Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl. Tulsa has Cody Green, a Nebraska transfer, back after he threw for 2,592 yards last season, not to mention Trey Watts, who rushed for 1,108 yards. Tulsa will have to rebuild on defense, but has had a recent run of success that has bolstered its recruiting efforts.

Bottom line – Tulsa has given UNT fits for years. The Mean Green has lost 10 straight in the series dating to 1969, before anyone on the team was even born. UNT has not recruited Oklahoma under Dan McCarney like it did under a few previous coaches, but Tulsa recruits DFW. It would be a huge win if UNT could pull it off, but the Mean Green will be a big underdog.

TBD – at Southern Miss2012 record – 0-12

Returning starters – Five offense, nine defense

About Southern Miss – The school hired former Oklahoma State assistant Todd Monken after a disastrous 0-12 season in 2012 under Ellis Johnson. Monken was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and inherits a team with most of its defensive starters coming back. The Golden Eagles averaged just 19.7 points a game last season, which was part of the reason Monken was an attractive choice for a head coach.

Bottom line – There will be an avalanche of Rick Villarreal stories written in the days leading up to this game. Villarreal came to UNT from Southern Miss and has done a terrific job of building the school’s overall athletic program. He had a major role in the dream of a new football stadium becoming the reality that is Apogee Stadium. Villarreal brought several people to UNT with him from Southern Miss. UNT will likely have to win this game to have a shot at a bowl and it will be important to the people at UNT.

TBD – at Louisiana Tech2012 record – 9-3

Returning starters – Four offense, six defense

About Louisiana Tech – Former South Florida head coach Skip Holtz took over in the off-season after Sonny Dykes left for Cal. Tech averaged 51 points and 578 yards per game in 2012, but will have to replace several players, including quarterback Colby Cameron, who threw for 4,147 yards last year.

Bottom line – This could get really juicy with former Denton Ryan standout quarterback and Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young playing for the Bulldogs. There is no guarantee Young ends up wining the job, but it would be intriguing if he does. Young considered UNT before transferring to Tech. The school’s football program is one UNT fans look at in amazement. In theory, UNT is in a better location and has a great new football stadium. Tech lacks some of the resources UNT has at times, but the Bulldogs just keep winning. A win over Tech would be huge for UNT.

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