North Texas will soon head into the offseason following its showdown with Miami (Ohio) in the Frisco Football Classic on Thursday.
UNT enters the postseason at 6-6 and is looking to break through for its first bowl win in five appearances under coach Seth Littrell.
The Mean Green have won five straight heading into this week’s game. Late last week, we kicked off our annual series on three reasons UNT could be better and worse next year with the positive side and three reasons the Mean Green could be better.
We wrap up this year’s series today with three reasons UNT could be worse.
1. An uncertain quarterback situation
UNT has spent the last two years trying to find a replacement for quarterback Mason Fine, one of the Mean Green’s all-time greats.
It’s been anything but easy. Jason Bean and Austin Aune split time last season and helped lead UNT to the Myrtle Beach Bowl and a 4-6 campaign. North Carolina transfer Jace Ruder took over at the beginning of this season before Aune regained the job.
The former Argyle standout has been just what UNT needs. He hasn’t been spectacular from a statistical perspective but has made the key plays the Mean Green have needed while throwing for 1,763 yards and nine touchdowns.
What has been equally important is the leadership he has provided. Aune expressed confidence in UNT’s ability to turn its season around after a 1-6 start. That confidence set the tone during the Mean Green’s late-season run.
Aune spent six seasons playing minor league baseball and has two years of eligibility remaining. The question is if he will use them. Aune is 28, has two degrees in hand and a baby due early next year. He went through Senior Day before UNT’s win over UTSA and said afterward that he would decide on his future after the season.
There is a good chance Aune walks away after this season. UNT signed two quarterbacks during the early period in Louisiana Tech transfer JD Head and Abilene Christian transfer Stone Earle.
The Mean Green are looking at the possibility of another quarterback competition in the offseason. There is no guarantee if Aune leaves that his replacement will be able to fill his shoes right away.
2. UNT is set to lose some high-end talent
UNT doesn’t have many seniors this year but some of those veterans are among the best players on its roster.
Defensive tackle Dion Novil, running back DeAndre Torrey and linebacker Tyreke Davis are among a handful of talented players who will wrap up their careers this week.
UNT also has a few older players who could consider leaving the program as graduate transfers at the end of the year.
Talented players leave programs every year and are replaced. UNT has plenty of good young players across the board.
The reality is the Mean Green will still end up with some holes in their lineup that won’t be easy to fill.
3. C-USA is getting better
UNT pulled out a few close games against Conference USA West Division opponents this year.
The Mean Green slipped past UTEP on a last second field goal, lost a close game against Louisiana Tech and beat Rice in overtime. The Miners earned a bowl berth this season. Louisiana Tech is usually solid, while Rice has shown signs of improvement. Southern Miss has struggled but has been good in the past.
And then there’s UTSA. The Roadrunners were ranked 15th in the AP Top 25 poll when UNT stunned them late in the season. UTSA rebounded to beat Western Kentucky in the C-USA title game.
UAB drilled UNT and is about as consistent as teams come in C-USA.
The point is, C-USA is getting better, particularly in the West Division where UNT resides. The Mean Green finished 4-2 against the division last year. Matching that run next year won’t be easy.
UNT also has games against SMU and Memphis in nonconference play. Those will be tough games. UNLV and Texas Southern look like games UNT should win, but the Mean Green get the Rebels in Las Vegas.
UNT’s nonconference schedule was a whole lot tougher this year, but there is no guarantee the Mean Green will handle it as well it did this year’s slate.