UNT-SMU prediction

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine (6) carries the ball during the Mean Green's win over Abilene Christian last week at Apogee Stadium. UNT will face SMU at Ford Stadium in Dallas on Saturday.

North Texas at SMU

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ford Stadium, Dallas

Records: UNT 1-0, SMU 1-0

Last week: UNT 51, Abilene Christian 31; SMU 37, Arkansas State 30

Last meeting: UNT 46, SMU 23 (2018)

TV: ESPN3

What’s on the line?

UNT has a chance to make history at SMU in a series the Mustangs have traditionally dominated. 

The Mean Green have beaten SMU on its home field in Dallas once, and that was in 1933. UNT is 1-24-1 all-time against its neighbors to the south in games played in Dallas and trails in the all-time series 6-31-1.

UNT broke through last year with a 46-23 win at Apogee Stadium in a game it led 36-0. A win would be historic for UNT not only because it would be its first in Dallas. It would also give the Mean Green back-to-back wins over SMU for the first time ever.

UNT would have a good case that it is turning the tide against its longtime rival with a win on Saturday.

That is also what makes the game so big for SMU. The Mustangs had won three straight against UNT before falling to the Mean Green in the first game of Sonny Dykes' tenure at SMU. 

The Mustangs can make the case last year was a fluke and claim they have an edge on UNT as a program with a win over the Mean Green. SMU will have won four of its last five games against UNT if it can win at home this year.

When UNT has the ball

UNT is expected to be one of the more prolific offensive teams in Conference USA and among all Group of Five teams this season and certainly looked the part in its win over ACU.

Quarterback Mason Fine threw for 383 yards, DeAndre Torrey rushed for 95 and Rico Bussey Jr. finished with 156 receiving yards. 

UNT will have a much tougher matchup when it faces SMU. The Mustangs are loaded with transfers from Power Five conference teams, including cornerback Brandon Stephens (UCLA) and linebacker Richard Moore (Texas A&M).

When SMU has the ball

UNT played well early in its game against SMU when the Mean Green ran out to a 31-0 lead. That was when the Mean Green's defense started to struggle while giving up 31 points from the second quarter on.

The question now is whether that lapse was due to UNT stepping off the gas or because of flaws in its lineup. The Mean Green lost several key players to graduation after last season, including both of its starting cornerbacks and two key linebackers.

UNT will have a better idea of just how solid its defense is after facing SMU, a team that features quarterback Shane Buechele. The Texas transfer threw for 2,958 yards as a freshman with the Longhorns in 2016 before transferring.

Buechele threw for 360 yards in SMU's season-opening win over Arkansas State and has plenty of talent around him. Wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. caught 11 passes for 180 yards.

Prediction

UNT's game against SMU looks like it could go either way.

The Mean Green have a veteran team and one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Fine. UNT is capable of winning in Dallas, but it isn't going to be easy.

SMU has several players with Power Five talent, including Buechele. There were also signs in the Mean Green's opener that UNT's defense might not be what it was last season.

The game will likely come down to the end. UNT has veterans, including Fine, who are capable of making the key plays late. This just feels like UNT's year.

Prediction: UNT 45, SMU 42

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

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