The year before Seth Litterell took over in Denton, North Texas went 1-11. In his first year, he took the Mean Green to just their second bowl since 2004. He’s won nine games in each of the two years since, including a C-USA West division title in 2017.
Littrell is back for year four, and with him returns almost the entirety of an offense that will likely be one of the best in the G5, led by QB Mason Fine (65%, 27 touchdowns, just five interceptions, and 3,793 yards yards last year).
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is off to USC. The new head man on the offense is former Eastern Washington OC Bodie Reeder. His Eagles offense averaged 43.1 points per game last year and came just short of an FCS title.
Harrell will have a ready-made leader at quarterback – Mason Fine, one of the best at the G5 level, maybe the best. In two years he has thrown for nearly 8,000 yards and has been deadly efficient, rarely turning the ball over.
The top returning receiver is Rico Bussey, who brought in over 1,000 yards last year despite dealing with injuries. Bussey was efficient too, averaging 15.0 YPC.
Speedy receivers Jaelon Darden and Michael Lawrence are also back after combining for over 1,000 yards last year, along with TE Kelvin Smith.
Four backs that averaged over five yards per carry return, the head of the bunch is junior DeAndre Torrey (977 yards, 15 touchdowns, 5.6 YPA).
The line was pretty good in 2018 and returns three starters. Virginia Tech grad transfer D’Andre Plantin will fill the hole at LT, but sophomore Jacob Brammer will need to step up on the other side after getting just four starts last year.
All in all, there is everything to like about this offense outside of a few minor gripes on the line. This will likely be Conference USA’s best group.
The aggressive North Texas defense was awesome last year, but the five best players are gone from 2018 between run-stuffing NT Ulaiasi Tauaalo, LB E.J. Ejiya (nine sacks, 16 TFL), LB Brandon Garner (6.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL), CB Kemon Hall (14 PBUs, five picks), and CB Nate Brooks (10 PBUs, six picks).
Ends LaDarius Hamilton and Dion Novil return on the line (eight sacks, ten TFL between the two), and Kansas State transfer Bryce English will step in the gap in the middle left by Tauaalo’s departure.
Jamie King and Joe Ozougwu combined for 11.5 TFL as jack linebackers last year, but the other two spots on the second level are up in the air.
NBs Tyreke Davis and Jameel Moore return and both safeties are back, led by the top returning tackler on the team, Khairi Muhammad. Corner is a huge question mark.
The defense is a mixed bag, but it will almost certainly take a step back from last year. The edges and safety seem like two good groups, but the rest of the defense is touch-and-go
The schedule features four sure wins and eight games projected within a touchdown one way or another, so 5-7 and 10-2 are both extremely real possibilities.
Having to face two of the top three in the division on the road is tough, but I have enough faith in the offense to make up for some mishaps on the defensive end and for this team to compete for a Conference USA title.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|12-Oct||at Southern Miss||82||-2.6|
|9-Nov||at Louisiana Tech||87||-1.7|
Average Projected Record: 7.7 wins, 4.3 losses (5.5 wins, 2.5 losses)