Q&A with Ryan Autullo from the American Statesman

It’s just a few hours now before North Texas kicks off its season against Texas.

One of the features we will bring back this year is a Q&A with a writer who covers the opposing team. First up this year is Ryan Autullo, who covers Texas for the Austin American-Statesman. One can find the latest from Ryan on the Statesman’s website and on Twitter

Here’ what he had to say about Saturday night’s UNT-Texas game:

1. How will Texas approach this game with it being Charlie Strong’s debut? There is talk of Texas wanting to make a statement. What have you heard?

I think it’s important for Texas to not only win, but to look good doing it. With harder challenges coming the following two weeks against BYU and UCLA, Strong’s team needs to be feeling good about itself. A cliffhanger with a 24-point underdog could be reason for concern.

2. How is Texas holding up amid all the suspensions and dismissals of key players?

We’ll see. Suspension and dismissals shrunk the depth and overall talent at running back, wide receiver, and safety. Veteran running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray are Big 12-caliber, so I’m not concerned about Texas moving the ball on the ground as long as its horses stay healthy. Wide receiver and safety, on the other hand, are the two weakest position groups on the team. Expect to see true freshmen and/or walk ons get significant playing time.

3. Will Denton natives see local hero Jerrod Heard on Saturday?

Doubt it. Heard is running third at quarterback behind David Ash and Tyrone Swoopes. In a perfect world, I think he redshirts and competes in the spring to unseat Swoopes as the back up. By all accounts, Heard’s been just OK in the preseason.

4. Texas has a huge offensive line and two terrific running backs in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. Do you expect Texas to line up and try to run the ball down UNT’s throats?

Yes, absolutely. In an era of uptempo, pass-happy offenses, Texas is a throwback. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson employs a pro-style system predicated on controlling the clock and dictating pace of the game. That works out well year one, as the players he inherited are suited best to run the ball. The line replaces four starters, but the talent is there. Brown and Gray could have big seasons.

5. How do you see the game playing out?

A close game at halftime turns into a comfortable Texas win, something like 30-10. The Longhorns win the battle up front on both sides of the ball and North Texas withers in the second half.

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