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North Texas quarterback Mason Fine signals before a snap during the Mean Green's loss to Utah State in the New Mexico Bowl last season. Fine was named the most important player in Texas college football this week by Dave Campbell's Texas Football.

Dave Campbell's Texas Football is often referred to as the Bible when it comes to the sport of choice in the state.

There's a good reason for that. It's a statewide publication that has a big influence on the conversation when it comes Texas college football and to a lesser extent the high school realm.

The publication weighed in one North Texas-related issue and made a statement on another without saying a word in the last few days.

Greg Tepper,  and the rest of the crew do a great job and were right on both accounts: Where UNT quarterback Mason Fine ranks among the most important players in Texas college football and where Group of Five football ranks when it comes to general interest among fans in the state.

Let's start with the former.

DCTF came out with its list of the most important players in the state just a few days ago. Fine ranked No. 1. on the list that also includes UNT safety Khairi Muhammad at No. 14, defensive end LaDarius Hamilton at No. 21 and wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. at No. 41.

Putting Fine all the way at the top is a gutsy call, one that makes sense.

DCTF makes the argument that Fine should be at No. 1 largely because of his considerable career accomplishments. He is the active leading passer in college football with 9,417 yards and has helped guide UNT to three straight bowl games.

Fine arrived at UNT at the same time as head coach Seth Littrell. They teamed up to elevate a program that won just one game in the season before their arrival to the point where it is a consistent winner.

That's a good reason Fine is among the most important players in the state, but it's not the only reason.

Fine is also vitally important to UNT because he is the key to the Mean Green's chances to capitalize on their best opportunity in years to post the type of season that would elevate the program on a national scale.

UNT hasn't won a conference title since Hall of Fame coach Darrell Dickey guided the Mean Green to four straight Sun Belt titles from 2001-04 and has won just one bowl game since 2002, the Heart of Dallas Bowl after the 2013 season under Dan McCarney.

This season marks the Mean Green's best chance to break through.

UNT returns 13 starters, including several in key spots. Running back DeAndre Torrey and wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. are also back.

Littrell also returns after a brief flirtation with Kansas State. He's a hot commodity. There is no telling how much longer he will be in Denton.

Fine will be around for just one more year and is a generational talent.

Long story short -- This is UNT's best chance to make the kind of run with landmark nonconference wins, a C-USA title and a bowl win that the Mean Green have had in years.

Fine is the key to making it happen.

UNT just isn't the same without him on the field. That was readily apparent when the Mean Green went from being locked in a 7-7 tie with a nationally ranked Utah State team in the New Mexico Bowl last season to being boat raced 52-13 with him on the sideline with a pulled hamstring.

The Mean Green would be in a much better position if it had to go a game or two without Fine this season. Jason Bean showed signs of potential in spring practice. UNT also had freshman Will Kuehne waiting in the wings.

Neither of those players have the experience of Fine. It's a stretch to think UNT will have a player of his caliber at quarterback any time soon.

Fine is the most important player to UNT's hopes for greatness this season and is one of the best and most productive players in the state.

One can make an argument those attributes should have landed him on the DCTF cover. 

That's just not going to happen in the real world where publications are trying to make money and serve their largest audiences. Those fans follow the Power Five conference teams in the state like Texas far more than they do the Group of Five teams like UNT that largely operate in the shadows.

UNT has a growing fan base. It's just dwarfed by those that follow Texas, the Big 12 and what's going on at the Power Five level in general.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger is great player at a school that is always in the spotlight and landed the cover. 

That might not sound fair, but it's the reality of the situation.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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