We already knew the opponents, but we didn’t know the whens and wheres. Yesterday, the 2018 season schedule was released.
|12/1||CUSA Title Game|
I like this bit where we open the season against SMU. Even if it is Ford Stadium, it is essentially a home game and it is a way to get a little tradition. For my money, the opener is more fun than the Homecoming games. By the way Homecoming has not been announced as of this publishing. Incarnate Word is coming to Apogee next. The Cardinals moved up from Division II to FCS in 2013 and has been mediocre in that time. Notable is that this upcoming season will be new Head Coach Eric Morris’ first season.
NT then travels to Fayetteville for the money game of the year. This will be the third straight year against Chad Morris, with Morris getting an SEC roster instead of his AAC one the last two years. Morris is 2-0 against Seth Littrell and 3-0 against NT in his three years as a head man. NT will not be favored but this is probably the best chance NT has had of beating an SEC school in years.
NT continues the road trip with a visit to Lynchburg, VA to take on the controversial Liberty Flames. For all the consternation involved with this, NT should absolutely destroy this team. Turner Gill was a hot name in coaching before flaming out at Kansas (no one has won in Kansas beside Mark Mangino) and has put together some solid teams at Liberty. The notable win over Baylor is only notable because Baylor nearly went winless. There is a talent disparity, still and NT should win this easily.
Finally, NT begins conference play with a home date against Louisiana Tech. The Mean Green should be at worst 2-2 at this point and has a decent shot to beat Tech. This blog has thought that the Bulldogs were better than their record, and there is no reason to think they will not be a favorite to take the division title again. NT should be coming off a road blowout win while Tech will come in after visiting LSU. Advantage: NT.
Visiting UTEP is always difficult for this team. There is no real reason for it, but let me offer the fact that NT has had 1) bad teams and 2) late season games against the Miners. The first year under new head coach Dana Dimel will be a complete unknown. They should have the new coach bump in motivation and enthusiasm, but their team was poor in multiple areas. The new OC is an old favorite: Mike Canales.
Up next, a home dates against the tough Southern Miss Golden Eagles. NT is on a two-game win streak vs this team. The case with the Golden Eagles is always this: Is their QB any good? They’ve lost a lot of offensive talent and will try to replace it with some JUCO guys and players who were second string. Korey Robertson and Allanzae Staggers are gone and Ito Smith also. This team may have a better defense and a worse offense which works in NT’s favor.
On the 20th, NT travels to Birmingham to take on Dark Horse division candidate UAB. The Blazers rode a wave of righteous indignation this past year as they upset league teams each week on the way to a bowl bid. Conquering is easy, ruling is hard. In the Blazer’s case that means that sustaining a program is much more difficult than building a giant “FU” team to surprise the doubters. They will be tough in Birmingham.
Rice then closes out the month, as they near the final third of the first year under their new coach. Rice was tougher than the record indicted the last few years as David Bailiff was always a good coach and thoughtful roster builder. There is no telling what Rice will be this season, but after two trips to Houston, NT will host the Owls for the first time since 2015, when the Owls blew the doors off the Mean Green.
NT closes the month with no Halloween game. While the 2013 game against Rice was memorable, the last few have been forgettable. NT tried to drum up interest in the roadie against UTSA in ’16 and tried a black out against ODU in ’17 to mixed results.
NT opens the month with ODU on the road. The Monarchs nearly pulled off an upset and briefly led the game in Denton. Their 17-year old QB is now 18 and might be 19 by the time the Mean Green visits. Foreman Field will be tough as the Monarchs always are difficult at home.
After that tough trip NT has the biggest gut check game of the year — Florida Atlantic at home. No matter what happens this season, the game against FAU will be an opportunity to exercise some demons. NT looked clearly second-best in both games in Boca Raton. Winning this game may or may not have any impact on the division race, but it will do wonders for the psyche. Lane Kiffin should have a good team again as he is returning a lot of the talent that destroyed all comers last season.
Finally, we have the post-Thanksgiving Rivalry Week game against the Roadrunners in San Antonio. Last season NT saw a good crowd in Houston for the Rice finale that had little to no meaning. That bodes well for this game. Unfortunately the big difference is that the NT roster boasts more than a few Houston-area players that make it out to Rice stadium. There are not as many alumni in San Antonio.
One concern about this game is the situation. FAU will be a tough game emotionally and physically. It will be a drain, win or lose.
We are among friends so I will admit I did not want to even entertain the thought of a championship appearance before this season. Having won the division — ahead of schedule — it is tempting to jump to declaring this team the favorites to repeat the feat. It is important to remember that North Texas was one possession away from losing to UTSA, La Tech, Army, and UAB this past year and were handled easily by three good G5 squads in Troy, FAU, and SMU.
North Texas could manage only 6-wins while being a better team overall. The schedule is tougher, as the 50/50 games are on the road. The dregs of the division have new coaches and so are unknowns. Everyone that NT beat in those close ones are hungry to make things right. No one will underrate NT, as they will enter every field as “Defending West Champs” and that means a little target on the back.