This week is all about taking care of business.
The usual preview tidbits are less useful today because the stakes are simple: win and clinch the division. Lose and throw away a season of good will and damage next year’s prospects.
UTEP is good enough to make this a game, and North Texas is still early enough in the renovation project to be vulnerable. The key to this game is simple: hit UTEP early with a couple of haymaker and take the fight out of the Miners.
Against UTSA and WKU there was just enough offense to put a little scare into those teams, but MTSU did not allow those kinds of plays last week.
The UTEP defense still has talent and will happily make this a game if the NT offense lets it. They will gain confidence and maybe just enough field position to help the anemic Miner offense score enough. NT should have put ODU out early but the special teams helped the Monarchs. Then ODU’s Steven Williams was able to put his team in the lead.
That kind of situation is how the Miners can make it interesting. Mean Green fans are hungry for a blowout after too many nail-biting games late. Beating UTSA was fun in retrospect, but the returning alumni deserve a big win to cap off homecoming week.
Jeffrey Wilson is one yard away from his first 1000-yard season and 117 yards away from Lance Dunbar’s 2011 tenth-place single-season record at NT. There are possibly five games left and Jeff is averaging 111 yards every time out. He is on pace for 1554 which would just eclipse Lance Dunbar’s 2010 season and put him third all time. Another 100-yard game would put Jeff tied at fifth with 12. Jeff is also just over 100 yards behind Johnny QUin for 4th place on the all time all-purpose yards list.
Mason Fine is in line for some big things also. He’s at 18 passing TDs with five games to play. His 2-a-game pace puts him at a projected 28 for the year, which would set the single season record. He’s three away from fifth and tying Steve Ramsay’s 1967 mark. If Fine has a 287-yard day (average) he will be third in the single-season list, just behind Derek Thompson’s 2896 in 2013. Fine is just under a 1000 away from passing Giovanni Vizza on the career list for 6th. Two TDs against UTEP will put Fine just above Vidal Carlin’s 25 for sole possession of 8th place in the career passing list. If Fine completes his average of 22 passes today that will put him tied with Giovanni Vizza’s 2007 season for 4th all time on the single-season list.
A blowout win will not only be good for everyone’s psyche — fans and players included. It has practical purposes also. Army comes in here next week and North Texas will need every ounce of mental and physical rest for the kind of discipline that is required for defending option teams. Army won today and is now 8-2, losing only to Ohio State and Tulane.
NT can’t get caught looking ahead and the easiest way to prepare for Army is to take care of business against UTEP and sew up the West division in front of the home crowd.
MGN Prediction: NT 55-10