Mason Manning Academy

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine, center, stands at midfield for the coin toss before a game against Florida Atlantic at Apogee Stadium last season. Fine will lead the Mean Green into their season opener on Saturday against Abilene Christian at Apogee Stadium.

Abilene Christian at North Texas

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Apogee Stadium, Denton 

Records: Season opener for both teams

Last meeting: UNT 48, ACU 0 (1994)

TV: ESPN+

What’s on the line?

UNT enters the season with expectations as high as they have been in recent memory. The Mean Green are coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons and are the preseason pick to win Conference USA's West Division in the league's preseason coaches' poll.

UNT is looking for a convincing win that would give it momentum heading into a showdown with longtime rival SMU with momentum on its side.

ACU is coming off a 6-5 season and is looking to continue its growth under coach Adam Dorrel. The Wildcats posted their first winning season in the Southland Conference in their fifth season in the league. 

A win over UNT would be a milestone achievement for the Wildcats. ACU is 1-7 against teams that compete on the Football Bowl Subdivision level. That one win came against Troy in 2014.

When UNT has the ball

UNT is loaded on the offensive side of the ball and features the nation's leading active passer in quarterback Mason Fine. The senior has thrown for 9,417 yards in three seasons with the Mean Green and has a host of talented players around him. Four of UNT's top wide receivers are back, including preseason All-C-USA selection Rico Bussey. 

What will be interesting to see is how the unit performs in Bodie Reeder's debut as UNT's offensive coordinator. Reeder spent last season at Eastern Washington and is one of the stories of the offseason for UNT.

ACU allowed 26.9 points per game last season, but coughed up 55 in a loss to Baylor in its last game against an FBS opponent.

When ACU has the ball

UNT will be breaking in new starters at several key positions on defense after its top three tacklers graduated after last season. Linebackers Tyreke Davis and KD Davis have moved into the starting lineup along with cornerbacks as have Cam Johnson and Nick Harvey.

ACU returns several of the players who helped the Wildcats average 30.1 points per game last season, including Luke Anthony. ACU's starting quarterback threw for 3,019 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.

Prediction

UNT should roll past ACU as long as the Mean Green aren't caught looking forward to next week's game against SMU. UNT has a great group of seniors who won't let that happen. ACU won't have the athletes to compete with UNT, which will jump out to an early lead and roll to a confidence-building win over the Wildcats.

Prediction: UNT 52, ACU 13

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

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