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General

Mean Green End Disappointing Season, Mason Fine’s Last Game

The entire season can be summed up in the third quarter game-losing interception: tough scenario, bold plan, terrible execution, awful result.

North Texas kicked off the last season of Mason Fine’s collegiate career with much fanfare. There was a little G5 Heisman talk, some beat writer-led division hype, and the lingering good feelings from back-to-back nine-win seasons.

Instead North Texas finished 4-8, with three straight losses. Seth Littrell and Mason Fine produced their second losing season in four season’s time and miss out on a bowl game for the first time.

Readers of this fine publication will no doubt remember that we warned and cautioned and talked about how when we talk about the wins that could have been we have to acknowledge the losses that were nearly there as well.

Two seasons ago the Mean Green went to the league title game and lost. The louder part of the internet fandom complained that it was the beginning of greatness but it was a few bounces away from being nothing.

This season felt like that one — but with all the bad luck and none of the good. It was difficult to enjoy but Mason Fine said the right things about it in the end. “It wasn’t the way we wanted it to go but that’s life and that’s football.”

It is true. Life does not always reward hard work with triumph and immediate glory. The “mysterious ways” cliché comes to mind.

For supporters and interested parties, it was difficult to enjoy. There is little shame in finding something else to do besides watching a seemingly meaningless game in a losing season.

It did mean that Fine got to go out like Lance Dunbar and Patrick Cobbs: in front of empty crowds.

Ultimately it reinforced his feelings that the people he cares most about are the guys in uniform with him that went through the grind every day. “I’m excited to see what [his teammates] do. They are going to become better men, husbands, and fathers because of this season”.

Sure.

We all want to give a greater meaning to our efforts to justify it to a critical eye, and yes, every moment can be learned from in some small way.

Ultimately, the program put together a bad season and fell victim to its weaknesses: limited depth, unbalanced recruiting, coaching turnover, and well, some misfortune. Oh yeah, and the other teams played well on the day.

Another truism: If this was easy they would not pay the coaches so much.

The young defense was learning big the seemingly stacked offense sputtered and cane up short too often. Last week NT could not score the game winning TD against Rice despite having the ball in the red zone.

This week NT threw a game losing interception in the third, because the offense got shut down and sacked too much.

Seth Littrell said he was proud of the team because he saw effort and fight. That’s all we want out of anything we spend our precious attention on. Let us applaud them.

It has been clear since about midsession that the real root causes were systemic and not something that would be fixable in-season let alone in-game.

Yes, Jyaire Shorter and Deonte Simpson grew as recovers, but it was not enough to get the offense unstuck for long periods. The line was still allowing sacks, still snapping low or high, and they were not going to be able to improve quick enough for it to matter. There were big numbers but the inability to get first downs and touchdowns in the fourth against Rice and UAB were the reason for the losses.

It’s Blame Season across the nation and coaches are getting ready to pack up and move. NT fans want Seth Littrell to do like Herman at Texas and fire the defensive head man. There are more still that want Bodie Reeder gone for the sin of coaching Mason in a losing season.

Littrell practically turned over his coaching staff last off-season and the scientist in me dislikes the idea of changing another variable. The offense will be led by a new QB — one of Jason Bean or the other guys or maybe a transfer? — and so much change while breaking in yet another staff sounds like a recipe for another losing season.

Note: It has since been reported that Bodie Reeder is out as offensive coordinator, but that has yet to be confirmed by the program.

That said, the strength of the team was not well, strong. That means there is some soul-searching. The good news is that Littrell and his staff are the kinds of people that are willing to put in work and take accountability.

For the fans and stewards of the program that means adjusting expectations a bit. Do we want progress or perfection? If the former (as it should be) then we must acknowledge that progress is not always linear.

So while we should not blindly demonize a set back season, we also should not blindly trust every and all decisions. Littrell hit big on Harrell and Fine, but maybe not so much on Reeder (pending) and has some work to do building a more consistent defense.

Recruits like Simpson, Shorter, Tre Siggers, KD Davis and the young guys have impressed while some of the transfers have not. Compared to the rest of the league NT is in good shape. Finding one QB is a hell of a way to get a program on its feet. NT did that. Finding the next one is how a career is made. That’s yet to be seen.

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Football Football Recaps

Rice Beats Up North Texas 20-14

HOUSTON, TX — As usual, the traveling North Texas crowd looked bigger than the home supporters, but that did not matter. Mike Bloomgren’s Rice Owls came to play on Saturday at Rice Stadium, and Seth Littrell’s Mean Green did not.

Of course, things are not as simple as effort and desire and the twenty-two starters on each team cannot be summed up by a simple adjective. Still, North Texas preaches being the “most excited to play” and it looked like the green team was not.

NT went down 20-0 and the same old problems emerged: could not protect Fine, mistakes in execution, and some questionable play calling. Defensively, Reffet’s player okay but could not generate the consistent pass rush that would have put Rice in reaction mode.

Late in the game, needing a stop, the defense surrendered two first downs that sealed the game for Rice. They ran out the clock and celebrated their second win of the season, and their first at Rice Stadium.

Rice had that to play for — Bloomgren has done a great job of keeping his team ready despite so many close calls — and NT had just a chance at a bowl game in a season that started with much higher hopes.

This season is effectively over. There is one game to play: next week vs UAB on Senior Day. Outside of sending off Mason Fine and the other guys who helped revive the program, there will be nothing extra to play for.

Long time North Texas fans will remember that the last time the season ended this way it was 2015, and we had a coaching change. Seth Littrell will not be fired, but he will still he sought after despite this season’s outcome. He can point to the record book, the young talent on the roster, and the three bowl appearances as proof that he built something at NT.

The setbacks can be explained by acknowledging that he is a first-time coach and learning mistakes happen. There probably could have been some better decisions made in recruiting and hiring but it all has been for the good and this has been one of the most successful eras of the program that does not include a trophy case.

It is important to keep that perspective when attempting to digest an ugly loss such as this one. Rice, for all the very due praise they have gotten all season for being tough, is not as talented as NT from 1-85.

They made that not matter for a large portion of this game, however. A lot of that is coaching.

Offense

putting their The offense had only 238 yards on 57 plays. Rice wanted to choke the game by holding the ball but the real culprit was the poor execution. Fine threw an ugly early interception and missed a few receivers — including Greg White in the end zone. The line could not create space for Siggers not protect Fine often enough to get a rhythm.

Later, NT had a shot from the red zone after Rice fumbled. The refs did not call an interference call on 3rd-and-12 but NT was not exactly not exactly putting the Owl defense on their heels. They needed a 4th down conversion the previous drive and a ball to go through a defender’s hands on a pass to Lawrence.

Ultimately, NT had their chances to win and did not capitalize.

Defense

The Rice offense was solid and unspectacular. They scored 20 in the first half, aided by some short fields but scored when they needed to. The NT defense allowed some conversions early and that hurt them. Later in the second half they did well to force punts except on the final drive when they allowed a big first down on third and long.

NT brought heavy pressure and left Nick Harvey in single coverage. QB Tom Stewart lofted a pass to his big target Austin Trammel who had inside position and used his superior size to go up and get it. Rice used up more clock and then converted a game-sealing 3rd down on the ground.

Defense should be judged in two ways: comprehensive and situational. North texas did well overall and poorly in the latter category. The overall numbers are solid. Holding a team to 20 and under 350 is usually winning defensive football.

However, allowing red zone touchdowns and game sealing drives when you need a stop is not. The staff takes a lot of heat and some of it is very deserved — how, in a scheme that is designed to get pressure, does the squad not get enough pressure?

Some of it is undeserved — this defense is young and getting better weekly.

In this one everyone will remember that the defense was the last unit to make a losing play, but the gave the offense enough possessions and therefore opportunity to win.

Coaching

We wrote that Seth Littrell would earn his paycheck this week, as he had to motivate his group in a game that is very easy to dismiss against a team with nothing to lose, and hunger to impress.

There are a string of bad starts to this season — on the road and at home. SMU, Cal, this game come to mind quickly. North Texas is simply not ready to play to start the game. That is coaching.

The head coach is an offensive guru, and handpicked his new offensive coordinator. He said in preseason that he always had changes in mind for this year and wanted to be aggressive and more explosive.

Injuries have taken some of the experience from the team, but the mistakes that have plagued the group all year do not inspire confidence.

The criticism of the Air Raid system Littrell brought with him was of empty calories: big numbers but little in the way of details. Put another way it is “yes, you can have big per-game numbers but can you win a big game, or a big drive, or a high-leverage moment?”

Littrell’s group has pulled off some big plays in crucial moments but also has some huge, glaringly bad performances in others. It is discouraging to see his offense be the inconsistent performer in those games and moments.

Overall

This was a terrible loss. Rice deserves a lot of credit and Bloomgren has them playing well. Still, NT is further along the process than Rice is and had an all-timer at QB.

There is little reason to expect better in the finale against a better team than Rice, and a more experienced coach than Bloomgren. UAB beat Tech this day and combined with the USM loss to WKU, controls their fate in the west division.

Put simply: NT has nothing but pride to play for while UAB has a championship appearance on the line.

Categories
Football Football Recaps

North Texas Loses To Tech 52-17, Mason Fine Injured

For any shot at a division title or a reasonable bowl appearance, North Texas had to beat Tech in Ruston. They accomplished that feat two seasons ago in a tough game that ended with a missed field goal.

This season, they were beat up, but feeling good after two incredible offensive performances against two of the worst defensive teams in the league in UTEP and Charlotte. It was always going to be tough in this one, but there was hope.

That hope was quickly eradicated and stomped and choked and buried. Then it was dug up and beat some more for good measure.

Mason Fine left the game with a concussion near the end of the first half. NT had struggled, but was within 14 points at the end of the first two quarters. From then on, it was all Tech. They took full advantage of Jason Bean as their playmaking defense stepped up and made huge plays.

Bean struggled, but showed some promise here and there. He could not drive his team to a score, however and NT stayed at three points even after intercepting J’Mar Smith once and setting up the offense for a score.

Austin Aune made an appearance and immediately tossed a score to Mike Lawrence, lending speculation that we may see a depth chart reshuffle.

While frustrating to those that expected much more — the oft-repeated league favorite thing — this was always a possibility. The offense needed to be great and it was not to start this game against a quality defense. After the QB switch, the chances of scoring lots of points dropped dramatically.

Jason Bean has talent but is clearly not the QB that Mason Fine is. That acknowledged, Fine amounted only 48 yards in the first half and the offense could not muster more than the three points even while starting in quality positions.

North Texas has a bye week before traveling to Rice to take on the Owls in a game that is needed to reach six wins. NT is 4-6 with two to play, and a bowl game invite is looking dicey, even with six. Meanwhile, Tech controls their destiny at 8-1 on the season, and with UAB getting drilled by USM, they would have to drop two games for USM to make up the difference the rest of the way.

The Future

This was — again — an unbalanced team taking on a good one. There have been some criticisms of the experience level on the defense, and with good reason, but NT has largely made defendable choices. The offense, despite recent events, is record setting. The defense was pretty good last season all things considered. This season has been a disappointment, but there is young talent on both sides of the ball and good reason to think they will develop into a quality team in the coming seasons.

The one issue that is difficult to address is the quarterback position. Ideally, a QB that could learn with the rest of the young talent would get reps but that would mean pulling the best QB in the league. That is a non-starter and so Fine has got the majority of repetitions in the game.

There are a ton of quality graduate transfer QBs out there if North Texas feels they cannot reasonably compete with the current group. The future of the roster is bright.

The other question is the staff. After a 4-win season Seth Littrell is not as hot of a coaching candidate as he was last season, but he is still respected and injuries and roster turnover have been a big factor in the decline this year. If he were to leave, NT would have a big coaching search decision on their hands.

It is easy to get dramatic at a loss like this. This margin of loss makes everyone question everything, but making big decisions after one or two outstanding results is generally not good practice. NT had a set back but is overall trending upward compared to the last time they were under .500.

Categories
Football

The Season Is Long But We Should Enjoy It A Bit

The funny thing about football season is that it is so long and also very short. For the players, it begins in summer time and is a slog of workouts, school, and games.

For a lot of people who have checked out of this thing, football is done. There are three more games scheduled which means a whole month.

After that, there is the possibility— however slight — of a league title game and then a bowl game. That is five more football games to be played and at least (in that scenario) five more weeks of preparation.

The repetition can be comforting —- on Thursday and Friday I am ready to watch a new weekend of football. It can also be a grind in the hands of the hacks that fill up the internet.

Recaps, Hot Takes, Silly Stories, essentially Quote Tweeting press conference answers, preview, game blog/tweet, recap etc.

The game is simple, and it is hard to find something new to say about it all. It is easy to get cynical and hardened to the game and lose the ability to appreciate the entire thing.

(That said, it is quite annoying to read complete neophytes ignore all that came before and think this right here in front of us, is the greatest thing hat has or will be).

Thinking about the game from a process-and-results view, you find yourself sounding like a coach. “Go 1-0 every week, we just worry about winning and everything will take care of itself”

The truth about that is that attitude and perspective is important for the players preparing and making their way through that grind of a season. They seriously cannot look around or else they will be unable to keep up. It is like running a marathon — you have to keep the pace and not distract yourself with things outside of the race.

For the rest of us, well, it is not important to do that. This is inconsequential in the grand scheme and while jobs and livelihoods are at stake, it is all for the sake of entertainment. We can have a little fun.

So then it was awesome to see Mason Fine put on the T-Rex outfit and give the presser in costume. He has been a master of coach-speak and his presser was filled with generic answers straight out of Seth Littrell’s handbook.

It was also fun.

Categories
General

UTEP vs North Texas Halftime Notes

The offense has gone heavy uptempo and heavy pass against UTEP this game. With the help of a special teams fumble recovery, Mason Fine scored three touchdown passes in less than three minutes of play in the first quarter. This is what the uptempo offense has hoped to be all season. The major factor in wins and losses has been the defense’s ability to stop scores.

The receivers have been getting open at will against UTEP’s defensive backs. Because of the pass game success, the running game has been quiet. This was likely part of the game plan going into this matchup.

So Mason Fine has got five (FIVE) touchdown passes. Two to Jaelon Darden, one to Jason Pirtle, one to Deonte Simpson, and one to Jyaire Shorter.

The special teams group had been performing very well this half, up until they allowed the kickoff return for a TD. The punt coverage has also wanted a piece of the pie and has stepped in and tipped at least one punt.

The defense allowed UTEP to march down the field on only a couple drives, giving up one offensive score. Additionally, the defensive backs have played aggressively – even with a few missed assignments here and there. An added wrinkle in this game is UTEP’s Treyvon Hughes being used in the wildcat, leading to UTEP’s lone score. That man is 6’1” and 235lbs. He is difficult to bring down.

Categories
Football

Houston QB D’Eriq King to Sit Out NT Game, Season | Updated

Breaking news from Joseph Duarte of the Chronicle:

King is the best player on Dana Holgerson’s offense and one of the most dynamic players in the nation. He just broke the NCAA record for consecutive games with a passing and rushing TD at 15 in the loss to Tulane.

North Texas was going to have a big challenge ahead of them but this makes things much easier.

Link

There are developments. Apparently we will figure out if he is really leaving later this afternoon.

Finally, it is official. He is out for the year. So is WR Corbin.

Categories
Football

North Texas at California Preview

BERKELEY, Ca. — The Mean Green had a bad week down the road on the Hilltop. SMU came out hot and dominated the first quarter. There has been much self-reflection by everyone. Read this gem from the head man:


There were definitely some positives that we’ve got to continue to build on. But there was also some negatives.

Seth Litrell

Mason Fine was harassed into one of his poorest games since his first year as a freshman starter. He threw into coverage, he was sacked, pressured, missed a read, and his pass-catchers let him down by either not getting open or simply dropping the ball.

All that said, Tre Siggers was a revelation and he brought a level of aggression that briefly ignited something like a comeback. NT was within 11 points in the second half and in the modern era that is practically tied.

The NT defense has about two or three stops in them per game and they used that up in the second quarter when NT was getting that 14 on the board. That is a mighty cynical thing to say but then you watch this:

Overaggression

That encapsulates the issue here. NT made these types of mistakes when they last had a bunch of new and young players on the defensive unit in 2017. NT needed everything it could get from the offense to pull out wins back then and that is what we expect to need this year.

Getting beat in one-on-one situations is part of the game. I can live with opponents grabbing these kinds of passes:

Jameel Moore getting beat by a superior pass

I cannot live with some of the pass-interference calls. Sure, the refs were a little forgiving to the home team (SMU) but by the 4th time you get called for an interference it is time to reevaluate your own play and not complain about the calls.

Fighting against some home-cooking is part of the Adversity that comes with playing on the road. That is in proper noun case because in football it is an entire concept.

In every football play there are 22-men executing an action that was planned by something like 15 other experienced coaches, analysts, and associated hangers-on. That is to say there are many things that can go wrong and many influences on an outcome.

Broadly speaking, SMU looked more prepared for the first quarter than did North Texas but what does that mean? Were they playing “harder”? Did Sonny Dykes out-scheme the Mean Green? It is all more subtle than that. Overall NT did a good job and were not blown off the field. They got SMU into third-down situations but were beat in crucial situations that would have forced a punt and put the offense in a difference situation.

NT’s offense did not capitalize on their own do-or-die moments. 4th and 2, third-and-long, etc. Sometimes the game comes down to those moments and it all can seem so simple. All that prep. All that planing and execution and it all comes down to whether this one guy can beat that other guy.

That is one of the great and wonderful things about the game.

So, yes. If the referee does not call pass interference (obvious) NT gets the ball back early. If Tyreke Davis does not leave his assignment, NT maybe forces a FG. If, if, if.

The only thing NT can do is learn from the experience so this next game against a good opponent does not have the same type of mistakes.

Seth Littrell said they had a great week practicing, that everyone was excited and motivated. That is good stuff to hear.

Let us discuss this week’s game.

California Golden Bears

Cal is one of the Pac-12’s famous teams. You may know them for the big Cal-Stanford game and the occasional offensive star. Aaron Rogers played for Jeff Tedford in the early 2000s there. Marshawn Lynch and a handful of NFLers went through the program. Sonny Dykes — current SMU head man — coached Jeff Goff and lorded over a powerful offense that did not have a complimentary defense.

Jeff Wilcox is the current head coach and he is quite the opposite. He has this Bear defense solid and great against the pass but lacking in quality offensive firepower. This game will be strength-against-weakness on both sides of the ball and will be won on whose strength is stronger.

The game will be played at historic California Memorial Stadium, capacity 63,000. It memorializes WWI Californians. It was renovated in 2010 to close it up — it was separating because of a fault line.

The team just finished up a big win over No 14/12 Washington. While foreboding, Cal has beaten a ranked team each of the last 4 seasons while also disappointing. They are the team that can jump up and bite you but otherwise harmless in the Pac-12, apparently.

The offense is lacking, but they have managed more explosives this season. There is reason to think that the offense is getting a little even with its defense but the defense is still the best unit.

Attacking Cal

Justin Wilcox is a DC-turned-HC and it is no surprise he has this unit solid. Evan Weaver, LB; Luc Bequette, DE; Camryn Bynum, CB; Ashtyn Davis, S; are all all-conference returnees.

Cal plays in the three-or-four line front that nearly all defenses adopt now. Bequette is joined by Toaloa, Zeandae Johnson and a handful of others in the tree-deep. All are the same 6’2-4″ 290-ish range. Expect a wave of quality defensive lineman getting into the backfield making things rough for Mason Fine.

The linebackers are Weaver, Kuony Deng (6′-6″ 220) and Cameron Goode . They have good size and can fly around the field. The most heralded group are the secondary. Bynum, and Elijah Hicks are some of the league’s best. They are joined by Jaylinn Hawkins. There is quality and even senior backups behind the starters.

North Texas has faced some very talented defenses in the Littrell era and have not really overly-impressed. Against Iowa, and Florida there were some real question-marks. While Mason Fine is still quality, the line and the receivers have not matched up well with bigger and stronger talent in front of them.

This is one of the reasons why OC Bodie Reeder was so well-received. NT may have needed a shot in the arm for Fine’s final season — Littrell said “there were going to be some changes anyway” before Harrell left for USC.

Rico Bussey was shut out vs SMU and Littrell mentioned he expected the “other playmakers” to step up and play. That is something we noted last week and on the podcast. There were opportunities for others and only Siggers overly impressed.

Best case scenario: North Texas gets some big plays from Siggers, and NT gets a couple of big plays to help the cause. Short fields provided by the defense and a special teams score make it easy and take the pressure off.

Worst case scenario: Mason Fine is sacked a ton, throws a pick or two, and the run game is the only bright spot as Cal lets Siggers run for a scoreless 100 yards.

Defending Cal

Sophomore QB Chase Garbers leads the Cal attack.

NT will start Tualau Sa’afi at DE along with Hamilton and Dion Novil up front. There are no changes anywhere else so expect more of the same from this unit. There was good in the game vs SMU but one or two crucial mistakes let the Pony attack score. Sonny Dykes is one of the game’s best offensive minds and so is his OC Lashee.

Cal does not have the same type of offensive brain-trust leading the charge but there is talent and good football coaching. Cal’s line is big and Pac-12 quality, but they have youth (73 Cindric, 72 Mettauer) and that may be a weak spot.

The wideouts are Duncan and Crawford, and Remigio. RB Christopher Brown (230 lbs) is big and talented.

Cal has something like five or six TEs on the roster and like to go in big formations to run the ball and grind it out. NT’s defense is not big, but has speed. Getting to Garbers quicker than they did against SMU’s Buechele is the key.

SMU’s Proche and Roberson are quality WRs and they were put in great positions by their quarterback. NT is hoping that Garbers cannot make those same type of throws in this one. Cal knows they will be getting one-on-one coverage and has likely been looking forward to the opportunity.

It is a bold defense that can get some psychological gains if it works — against Arkansas last season the Hogs were clearly flustered that they could not win those outside battles and it rattled the entire fanbase.

Cal’s fans know the offense is struggling and any weakness shown early can get everyone on edge and turn the home crowd into source of nerves instead of enthusiasm.

Expect Cal to lean on the run game early, mixing it in with an occasional max-protect shot against Nick Harvey.

Best case scenario: North Texas is able to rattle Garbers and keep the run game from being effective, creating short fields. A turnover keeps the pressure off the offense.

Worst case scenario: Something like the Iowa game a few years ago where the run game tears threw the defense. The defensive backs are beaten regularly or give up big interference calls keeping the Cal drive alive.

Special Teams

North Texas needs big returns. Deion Hair -Griffin has been a no-show on offense but has shone bright on special teams. DeAndre Torrey can take it to the house and so can Jaelon Darden. This unit needs to get big returns and perhaps a score to help the cause.

Biagi’s group has impressed and a key blocked kick would be wonderful right about now. No huge mistakes would be baseline.

Overall

North Texas was always going to be the underdog here. Cal is a good team coached by a good staff but is by no means a monster that cannot be slain. Their offense is something akin to the Arkansas offense last season — talented, but with questions and some weaknesses in execution.

Against Arkansas and others, the defense made the key plays — interceptions! — and the offense did not have to do much beyond be solid. Here, the offense will likely have to do something beyond the ordinary and that could make all the difference.

MGN ebook Preview Prediction: 24-21 NT
MGN Prediction today: 27-17 Cal

Categories
Football

2019 Season Preview E-Book

Ladies and gentleman, we present to you the 2019 MGN season preview.

Purchase on Smashwords

Become a member of MGN and get it free (via coupon).

Categories
Football

Seth Littrell Just Needs To Win

Forget the hot takes.

Like most things, winning is the answer. Doing the little things in practice, recruiting, developing, and building relationships is how you win. This has all been documented and proven over and again.

There is a bit of luck involved, and sometimes some coaches get more luck than others and people rate them higher than others but we usually figure out who is doing the little things right and building a sustainable program.

Seth Littrell and his staff — and the administration — have done a ton right. North Texas is 7-2 and has 4 games (bowl game counted here) left to get three wins to reach the 10-win mark for the first time in school history.

Just five years ago the program reached a bowl for the first time in _ten_years. Since Littrell was hired he has reached bowl eligibility three straight years.

Where this blog was once giddy at the thought of a bowl, we are now nonplussed. Just like the players.

That is an accomplishment!

North Texas football is blasé about being bowl eligible!

I do not know what you think a “Power 5” school is like, but it is much like these G5 programs just with more TV money. “Power” means “Money” for all intents and purposes. It means there is more pressure because you are on TV each week and instead of losing a rough game on ESPN+ it will be on ESPN2 maybe.

Beyond that, not every P5 school is alike. Much as no G5 school is alike. Rutgers and Washington State are not on the same boat as Michigan and USC but yet they are in the same conference. One hired a good coach and spent the money and is ranked in the top 25 and the other spent money and hired a bad coach and is a laughing stock.

Seth Littrell learned from the one with the good record in case you were wondering.

What else are we talking about this bye week?

Categories
CUSA Stuff

CUSA Power Rankings Week 9

I did not vote in the Miner Rush poll last week on account of I was on a bye week, too.

My ballot this week:

  1. WKU 5-3, 3-1
  2. MTSU 5-2, 2-1
  3. Louisiana Tech 5-3, 3-1
  4. Southern Miss 4-3, 2-1
  5. North Texas 4-3, 2-1
  6. ODU 4-3, 2-1
  7. FIU 3-5, 3-1
  8. UTSA 3-4, 2-2
  9. Charlotte 3-5, 2-2
  10. UTEP 2-5, 1-3
  11. Marshall 2-5, 1-2
  12. Rice 1-6, 0-4
  13. FAU, 1-6, 0-3

Western Kentucky destroyed ODU this week, cementing themselves as the conference’s best. The Hilloppers wasted no time and came out firing on all (red) towels. They are probably past their worst stretch and are going to roll on teams (including NT) from here on out.

MTSU faced their toughest three game stretch — a good NT defense on the road in a trap game before a rivalry game that they barely lost in and finally an SEC team. The also should roll the rest of the way and are hoping WKU slips up one more time in conference play. That win over Mizzou is great for PR.

Louisiana Tech is atop the West but is the most likely to slip up between the two division leaders. They beat WKU but I can see them slipping vs North Texas and Southern Miss. This lead is not so solid. They are up-and-down each week. That said, they did handle a newly spry FIU.

SoMiss got to rest this week and have two cupcake games against Marshall and Charlotte in Hattiesburg in the next two. Well, they should be. After that a spry ODU, a good NT defense in Denton, and finally a big game with LaTech that cold decide the Div title.

North Texas gets the bump that everyone gets when they pull off an upset on people’s national radar. Sure Army is not the 1945 version, but they are a name and were favored by 18 at home. North Texas’ defense showed they are ferocious and opportunistic on their way to a huge win. NT takes on “rival” UTSA on the road this week at the Alamodome. No game has been decided by more than 8 points between these two, and each has come down to the final possession.

ODU was feeling themselves for a couple of weeks (rightly so) but got hammered against WKU. There is no shame in this. This program is improving and will do good things in the games and years to come. I am glad they are in the East.

FIU also managed a nice little run before getting beat down by a CUSA heavy. No shame in this. If WKU slips, the Panthers could be a dark horse for Div champs. Amazing turnaround.

UTSA has a nice-ish record and a resume win over SoMiss. But they have followed up that big win with two poor performances against the Division’s worst teams. Last week they needed Rice to implode on the final drive and this week they allowed UTEP to come to SA and steal a win. UTEP may not be as bad as Rice but UTSA was at home. A good NT squad comes to town this week and the Runners will figure out where they stand. They were North Texas’ only win last season and some measure of revenge should be on their minds, right?

Hey look at Charlotte out here getting wins. Any win for them is a program milestone as they try to do what UTSA, ODU are doing — and to a different extent what WKU, FIU, FAU have done. Marshall is bad but part of growing up as program is beating bad teams.

UTEP makes their slow climb out of the bottom of the power rankings. They beat an inconsistent UTSA team to being a run of games that are much easier than the first half of their schedule. ODU, FCS Houston Baptist, FAU, Rice, and our own NT are up for UTEP next. There is a real possibility they can end their season with 7 wins.

Marshall struggled through the ‘easy’ part of their schedule. They still have Southern Miss, MTSU, and WKU left and those look daunting. Also ODU and FIU are not pushovers. Marshall can finish 2-10 just as easily as UTEP can finish 7-5. Amazing.

Rice got their win against an FCS foe and looked good for a while until they allowed 44 points. Stanford is in a down year, but it looks like November is the best chance for Rice to steal a win. And it will be stealing, as they should be underdogs the rest of the way. Bigly.

FAU will be looking at Rice to get their only FBS/CUSA win of the year. Things look bleak.