We are now a few days away from the beginning of the Conference USA season for UNT, which brings up an interesting question:
Have expectations changed?
I ask because so far this year we have seen an interesting swing of emotions when it comes the Mean Green’s fan base, at least from where I sit observing it all go down.
A quick recap:
UNT beats Idaho 40-6, which led to the inevitable: “Oh, man. UNT’s going to win nine.”
UNT then falls to Ohio 27-21, which led to: “UNT will never get over the hump.”
UNT then rallies to beat Ball State, a team from the Midwest that wilted in blazing afternoon Texas sun after leading by 18 in a game UNT won 34-27. That led us back to square one and the predictions of a nine-win season.
Those feelings were only reinforced after UNT was tied up with Georgia in the second half before the Bulldogs scored the last 24 points in a 45-21 win.
And that leads us back to the question of the day: Have things really changed? Are expectations out of whack? Can UNT get to a bowl game for the first time since 2004?
I always thought UNT had the potential to win somewhere between four and six (maybe seven) games. One of the big obstacles was getting to 2-2 after nonconference play. UNT has done just that.
Here’s the rest of UNT’s schedule with thoughts on each game:
Oct. 5 at Tulane — The Green Wave is 2-2, but has not been very impressive. UNT has struggled on the road and its homecoming for Tulane. It’s a game UNT could win. UNT struggles against the pass and could have trouble with All-C-USA wide receiver Ryan Grant
Oct. 12 vs. Middle Tennessee — UNT has won two of its last three against MTSU, which is off to a 3-1 start. UNT is tough to beat at home. UNT’s game against MTSU is always big. This year won’t be any different. It could be the swing point for the whole season.
Oct. 19 at Louisiana Tech — Tech is not what it was last year, but played Kansas (yeah, I know, but Kansas is still a Big 12 team) tough. It’s also a road game and Tech appears to have settled on a quarterback in Ryan Higgins. This will be a tough one for UNT.
Oct. 26 at Southern Miss — The “Rick Villarreal Bowl” is one UNT will look at as a game it needs to win. Southern Miss is 0-3 and UNT’s AD will want to win in his return to his old stomping grounds.
Oct. 31 Rice — The Halloween night game will be a big chance for UNT to show what it has to a national TV audience. This could be one of the bigger games UNT has played in years. Rice is loaded, but is only 1-2 so far.
Nov. 9 UTEP — The Miners are 1-2. The UTEP game is one UNT really needs to win.
Nov. 23 UTSA — The “Mean Green Fans Wing Zone Kool-Aid Suicide Pact Game” still looms. UTSA is 2-2 and looks solid. If UNT loses to the upstart program, expect a meltdown in the Mean Green Nation.
Nov. 30 at Tulsa — UNT never, ever, ever beats Tulsa. Like ever. UNT has lost 10 straight to Golden Hurricane since 1969. The game could loom large in UNT’s hopes to win six games.
When one looks at the rest of the schedule, there is a pretty clear path to six wins. UNT can reach its goal if it beats Tulane, Southern Miss, UTEP and UTSA. UNT has a chance to do even better, but could also fall short. When was the last time UNT went through an entire season without suffering an unexpected or particularly painful loss? UNT lost to Troy last year, Western Kentucky in 2011 and before that. Well, let’s not get into before that.
We will just have to wait and see how it all unfolds.