North Texas has wrapped up spring practice and is now headed into its offseason strength and conditioning program.
That can only mean one thing. It’s time for our annual way-too-early look at the Mean Green’s 2021 schedule. UNT is looking to build on a 4-6 season that included an appearance in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.
There are a host of factors that will determine how UNT fares, from whether its defense improves to how its quarterback situation plays out.
One overlooked component is how the schedule sets up.
Here’s this year’s look, beginning with the full slate:
North Texas 2021 schedule
- Sept. 4 — Northwestern State
- Sept. 11 — at SMU
- Sept. 18 — UAB*
- Sept. 25 — at Louisiana Tech*
- Oct. 9 — at Missouri
- Oct. 16 — Marshall*
- Oct. 23 — Liberty
- Oct. 30 — at Rice*
- Nov. 6 — at Southern Miss*
- Nov. 13 — UTEP*
- Nov. 20 — at Florida International*
- Nov. 27 — UTSA*
Asterisks indicate Conference USA games.
Biggest nonconference game
This never really changes when it comes to North Texas. The Mean Green’s biggest nonconference game is at SMU.
UNT is 6-33-1 all-time against its neighbor from a few miles south. There is no team UNT fans want to see their team beat more. It’s not even close.
There was a debate at UNT several years ago whether SMU was a rival due to the lopsided nature of the series. UNT Hall of Fame broadcaster George Dunham, the former voice of the Mean Green, described the feelings of the UNT faithful perfectly when he said that if SMU was playing Russia State, he’d root for Russia State to beat the Mustangs by four touchdowns.
UNT fans feel like SMU looks down on their school and, by extension, them personally. The Mean Green are 1-25-1 against SMU in Dallas and haven’t beaten the Mustangs on their home field since 1933.
There will be dancing in the streets of Denton if UNT can pull off the upset.
Game UNT shouldn’t win but might
Marshall went on a tear early last season when it upset Appalachian State on its way to a 7-0 start. That run vaulted the Thundering Herd all the way to No. 15 in the national polls.
Marshall fell apart down the stretch and lost its last three games, including a 17-10 loss to Buffalo in the Camellia Bowl. The school decided not to renew the contract of coach Doc Holliday following the season.
UNT will face Marshall at home on Oct. 16.
On paper, it’s a game UNT shouldn’t win, even though former Alabama associate head coach Charles Huff will be in his first season guiding the Thundering Herd.
Marshall has quarterback Grant Wells back and is always loaded with talent.
UNT will be deep enough into the season to have settled in under new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. The Mean Green are always good offensively under coach Seth Littrell and might have enough firepower to pull out the win at home.
Game UNT should win but might not
UNT’s game against Rice looms large with the way the Mean Green’s schedule sets up.
UNT will likely be the underdog in six straight games after its season opener against Northwestern State. The Mean Green’s bowl hopes basically come down to surviving that six-game stretch, pulling off an upset or two and getting to the final five games of the season with their postseason hopes intact.
UNT should be able to beat Rice in the first game of that five-game stretch. The Mean Green beat the Owls 27-17 last season.
The problem is that pulling out a win at Rice won’t be as easy as it looks. UNT is 3-3 against the Owls in Houston.
Rice beat Marshall late last season and gave UAB all it could handle in a 21-16 loss in their season finale.
Mike Bloomgren has a feisty team. The last time UNT went to Rice was in the 2019 season, when it needed a win to keep its bowl hopes alive.
UNT fans remember how that turned out. Rice won 20-14.
The Mean Green should be able to exact some revenge, but there is a chance UNT will fail to take care of business again.