UAB at North Texas
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Apogee Stadium, Denton
Records: UNT 1-1, UAB 1-1
Last week: SMU 35, UNT 12; Georgia 56, UAB 7
Last meeting: UAB 26, UNT 21 (2019)
What’s on the line?
UNT will host UAB in both teams’ Conference USA opener on Saturday, when one team will take an early step toward emerging as a contender for the league’s West Division title.
The Mean Green are not expected to be a factor after being picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in the division in the preseason media poll. UNT can change the narrative with a win over UAB.
The Blazers have been remarkably consistent under Bill Clark while winning two of the last three C-USA titles. UAB has also won the West Division in three straight seasons.
The Blazers can take a key step toward a fourth straight championship with a win over the Mean Green.
When UNT has the ball
The Mean Green endured a tough game offensively last week in their loss to SMU in Dallas. UNT struggled to get its normally potent running game going and finished with just 122 rushing yards.
Running back DeAndre Torrey posted 71 of those yards on 16 carries before leaving the game due to injury. Quarterback Jace Ruder threw for 366 yards in his second start. UNT went just 4-of-18 on third downs and failed to convert all four of its fourth-down chances.
Getting back on track could be tough to do against a stout UAB defense. The Blazers shut out Jacksonville State 31-0 in their opener. UAB was blown out by national power Georgia last week skewing its stats for this season.
The 21.4 points the Blazers allowed per game in 2020 is an accurate portrayal of the challenge UNT faces.
When UAB has the ball
UNT showed promise last week when the Mean Green allowed just seven points in the first half of its loss to SMU.
UNT has forced eight turnovers in its first two games after coming up with just nine turnovers all of last season. Linebacker KD Davis is off to a great start and has 21 tackles and two sacks.
UAB scored 31 points against Jacksonville State before struggling against Georgia.
The Blazers feature veteran quarterback Tyler Johnston III, who has started games in each of the last four seasons. Johnston has 37 touchdown passes in his career.
UAB also has a host of talented running backs. DeWayne McBride and Jermaine Brown Jr. have 115 and 107 rushing yards, respectively, through two games.
UNT can make a statement in its opening game of C-USA play by knocking off UAB, which has been the league’s most consistent team over the last few years under Clark.
UAB is 18-3 against teams from C-USA’s West Division since 2017, when UNT beat the Blazers 46-43 in Denton.
UNT will have the homefield advantage again but came out of its loss to SMU banged up. UNT coach Seth Littrell declined to detail his team’s injury issues, but wide receiver Tommy Bush was helped off the field with a leg injury. Running back DeAndre Torrey also came out of the game. Wide receiver Deonte Simpson hasn’t played yet this season.
UNT is a big underdog, even at home. The Mean Green will keep it close, but the Blazers will pull it out in the end.
Prediction: UAB 30, UNT 27