North Texas at Missouri
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Faurot Field, Columbia, Missouri
Records: UNT 1-3, 0-2 Conference USA; Missouri 2-3, 0-2 SEC
Last game: Louisiana Tech 24, UNT 17; Tennessee 62, Missouri 24
Last meeting: Missouri 28, UNT 7 (1995)
TV: SEC Network
What’s on the line?
UNT has a chance to turn its season around in dramatic fashion at Missouri. The Mean Green are 4-36 all-time against teams from the SEC.
UNT did win its last game against a team from one of the elite conferences in the country. The Mean Green knocked off Arkansas in 2018.
UNT fans remember what that game did for the program. The Mean Green were a national story for days after the game that was highlighted by Keegan Brewer returning a punt for a touchdown on an elaborately designed fake fair catch.
UNT drew the second-largest crowd for a home game in program history two weeks later in its next game in Denton. A crowd of 30,105 turned out for a game against Louisiana Tech. The circumstances are much different this time around. UNT was 2-0 with a win over SMU heading into its game at Arkansas.
UNT is 1-3 this time around and is riding a three-game losing streak heading into its latest matchup with an SEC team. The premise remains the same. Winning this one would inject a whole lot of life into UNT’s program.
Missouri is also riding a two-game losing streak. The Tigers have an opening to get back on track beginning with their game against UNT.
Missouri has games against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt the next two weeks. The Aggies have not lived up to expectations. Vandy is another winnable game for the Tigers.
When UNT has the ball
All eyes will be on UNT’s quarterback situation in the Mean Green’s game against Missouri.
UNT has failed to reach the 100-yard mark passing in each of its last two games. Jace Ruder has started each of the Mean Green’s first four games and has enjoyed some moments. He threw for 366 yards in a week two loss to SMU but has struggled since.
Ruder threw for 13 yards on 3-of-10 passing against Louisiana Tech before being pulled in favor of Austin Aune. The former Argyle standout guided UNT’s come back from a 24-0 deficit that came up just short.
Aune is expected to start against Missouri, which has struggled all season defensively and is allowing 38.0 points and 306.8 rushing yards per game.
When Missouri has the ball
UNT’s defense continues to show signs of progress under Phil Bennett and is coming off a terrific second half against Louisiana Tech. The Mean Green shut out the Bulldogs after halftime and gave UNT’s offense an opportunity to rally.
Linebacker KD Davis has 35 tackles and two sacks on the season to lead UNT.
The challenge for the Mean Green is to build on that solid half against a potent Missouri team that is averaging 35.8 points per game behind quarterback Connor Bazelak and running back Tyler Badie.
Bazelak averages 304.4 passing yards per game. Badie has rushed for 458 yards and leads Missouri with 23 catches for 203 yards.
There is nothing on paper that would lead one to believe UNT can knock off Missouri.
The Tigers are far from the best team in the SEC, but they have players with the size and speed one would expect from a team in the best conference in the country. Bazelak and Badie are two of the best skill position players UNT will see all season.
UNT’s normally potent offense has also been something of a mess, largely due to injuries to key players. The Mean Green just aren’t the same without wide receivers Jyaire Shorter and Tommy Bush as well as running back Oscar Adaway III.
One could make an argument that those three players are the best weapons UNT had heading into the season. All three are out due to injury.
It all adds up to tough set of circumstances for UNT, which will see its losing streak reach four games.
Prediction: Missouri 38, UNT 21
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