A look at UNT’s key games of 2013 — Part II, Idaho

We began a blog series this week looking at some of the key games in UNT’s 2013 season.

There are a host of games that could make or break the Mean Green’s year, just like there is in any season.

We started out with UNT’s game against UTSA, or as we have decided to call it, the “UNT-Fans-Wing-Zone-Green-Koolaid-Suicide-Pact” game.

We fear a host of UNT fans will gather in the stands at Apogee and elect to leave this mortal coil if the Mean Green (celebrating year 100 of its football program) falls to UTSA (celebrating year three of its football program).

That brings us to No. 2 in our countdown:

Idaho at UNT, Aug. 31, Apogee Stadium

That game might not sound all that interesting, but it’s historic for UNT in several ways — 1. UNT is opening at home, 2. UNT is PAYING a guarantee to get the Vandals to come to town and 3. UNT is making a big deal out of it because it is the first game in its 100th anniversary season.

Opening at home, and paying to do it, are departures from the path UNT has followed for more than a decade.

UNT hasn’t opened at home since 2001.

Paying to bring another team in is also a total reversal from what UNT has done in the past.

In 2004, the last time UNT went to a bowl game, UNT played at Texas, at Colorado and at Baylor. In 2002, UNT played at Texas, at Alabama, at TCU and at Arizona.

UNT’s schedule has gotten significantly better since those seasons, which is a move one has to commend the school’s athletic department for making. UNT cut back to the point where it really only has one money game a year now. UNT went to LSU last year and had a game at Kansas State that was part of a longer contract. In 2011, UNT went to Alabama, but also hosted Indiana as part of a multi-game deal.

UNT’s game against Idaho marks another departure from the way the school has scheduled games in the past. UNT is paying $410,000 to bring the Vandals in.

UNT head coach Dan McCarney made no secret of the fact he wanted to open at home this year.

UNT paid a large chunk of money to make that happen on a night it is celebrating 100 years of UNT football with special jerseys.

Bottom line — If UNT is going to pay near a half a million dollars and break out specially made jerseys, it had better come through with a win.

Losing to the Vandals would be a tough blow for UNT.

It’s a pretty safe bet that UNT thought long and hard about who it’s bringing in considering the size of the investment and importance of winning the season-opener. Idaho went 1-11 last year and has a new coach in Paul Petrino.

The list of teams that UNT should feel really confident about beating from the FBS ranks this year isn’t very long.

Idaho was likely high on the list.

The Mean Green’s stated goal is to get to a bowl. Getting to six wins looks like a possibility if UNT beats Idaho, especially several winnable games still out there. UNT would still have games against Southern Miss, Tulane and UTEP, not to mention the UTSA game.

Lose to Idaho, and it would be easy to start looking at games with Georgia, Ohio, Rice and Tulsa and wondering where UNT is going to come up with six wins.

That’s what makes the Idaho game so important.

There are two “gotta have them” games on UNT’s schedule — Idaho and UTSA — the two games that lead our countdown.

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