UNT-LT prediction

North Texas players run on to the field at Apogee Stadium before a game earlier this season. UNT was eliminated from bowl contention with a loss to Rice. 

North Texas at Louisiana Tech

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Joe Aillet Stadium, Ruston, Louisiana

Records: UNT 4-5, 3-2 Conference USA; Louisiana Tech 7-1, 4-0 Conference USA

Last week: UNT 52, UTEP 26; Louisiana Tech bye

Last meeting: Louisiana Tech 29, UNT 27 (2018)

TV: Stadium via Facebook

What’s on the line?

UNT entered the season with high expectations after being picked to win the C-USA West Division title in the league’s preseason media poll and is quickly running out of chances to capitalize. The Mean Green need to beat Louisiana Tech and then receive a whole lot of help down the stretch to have a shot to reach the conference championship game.

What might be a more realistic goal for UNT is winning at least two of its last three games to become bowl eligible with six wins. A loss to Louisiana Tech would make that goal tougher to reach.

UNT will face Rice on the road next week before closing the season at home against UAB. The Mean Green haven’t won a game on the road all season, while UAB is 6-2. The Blazers are one of the better teams in C-USA.

Louisiana Tech is the last team without a loss in C-USA play and can move a big step closer to earning a spot in the conference title game before tough road games at Marshall and UAB the next two weeks.

When UNT has the ball

UNT continues to put up huge numbers offensively behind quarterback Mason Fine. The senior threw a career high seven touchdown passes last week.

Fine has thrown for 2,609 yards and 27 touchdowns on the season, which is a big reason UNT ranks among the top offensive teams in C-USA. The Mean Green are averaging 35.0 points per game. Only Louisiana Tech has a higher average at 36.4.

Maintaining that average will be a challenge for UNT against Louisiana Tech, which ranks third in C-USA with an average of 23.6 points allowed per game. Cornerback Amik Robertson has five interceptions on the season and is among the best defensive players in the league.

When Louisiana Tech has the ball

UNT has struggled most of the season defensively but did enjoy a solid outing last week in a win over UTEP while limiting the Miners to 275 yards.

The Mean Green rank 11th in C-USA with an average of 32.4 points allowed per game. UNT will have its work cut out for them against Louisiana Tech, which leads the league with an average of 471.3 yards per game.

The Bulldogs have playmakers all around quarterback J’Mar Smith, who has thrown for 2,220 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. Running back Justin Henderson has rushed for 654 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cee Jay Powell has 38 catches for 446 yards to lead five Louisiana Tech players who have at least 20 catches on the season.

Prediction

This game does not look promising for UNT on paper.

Louisiana Tech has won seven straight games, might have the best team in C-USA, is coming off a bye week and is at home.

UNT is playing its fifth game in as many weeks, is dealing with a host of key injuries and must venture out on the road. The Mean Green are 0-4 away from Apogee Stadium this season.

What UNT has on its side is desperation and a shot at revenge. The Mean Green know that if they can’t upset Louisiana Tech, their shot at advancing to the C-USA title game is gone. That will provide UNT plenty of motivation.

UNT also lost to Louisiana Tech on a blocked field goal in the final minute of last season’s game.

The Mean Green will avenge that loss in a thriller.

Prediction: UNT 35, Louisiana Tech 30

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

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