UNT-SMU prediction

North Texas wide receiver Deonte Simpson pulls away for a 55-yard touchdown on a pass from Austin Aune as SMU defensive back Ar'mani Johnson closes in during the Mustangs win over UNT last season at Apogee Stadium. The teams will meet again on Saturday in Dallas.

North Texas at SMU

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, University Park

Records: UNT 1-0, SMU 1-0

Last meeting: SMU 65, UNT 35 (2020)

TV: ESPN+

What’s on the line?

UNT has a chance to make history Saturday. The Mean Green have not beaten SMU in Dallas since 1933 and haven’t beaten the Mustangs anywhere since knocking them off in 2018 in Denton.

There isn’t a team UNT fans want to see the Mean Green beat more than SMU.

A win over the Mustangs would be a landmark achievement for UNT and would have the Mean Green sitting at 2-0 for the first time since 2018.

SMU is also 1-0 and can continue its dominance of its series with UNT. The Mustangs have won five of the last six meeting between the teams and lead the all-time series 33-6-1. Extending that run of success would only add to the recruiting advantage SMU has over the Mean Green and add to the Mustangs early season momentum.

When UNT has the ball

The big question for UNT heading into its opener was what its quarterback situation would look like following an offseason battle between Jace Ruder and Austin Aune. Ruder won the job and showed promise while throwing for 131 yards and a touchdown in his first collegiate start against NSU.

Ruder got plenty of help from DeAndre Torrey, who rushed for a career-high 244 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Roderic Burns also had a big night, catching six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.

UNT will look to build on a solid all-around performance in its win over NSU against an SMU defense that allowed just nine points and forced four turnovers in its win over ACU. The Mustangs were impressive in their first outing under new coordinator Jim Leavitt.

When SMU has the ball

UNT also has a new coordinator in Phil Bennett and took a step in the right direction in his debut after struggling in 2020. The Mean Green shut out NSU in the second half behind a big game from linebacker KD Davis.

Davis finished with 14 tackles and two sacks. UNT made a series of big plays defensively throughout the night and finished with nine tackles for loss.

Building on that performance could be tough against SMU, which is coming off a monster outing against ACU. Tanner Mordecai threw a school record seven touchdown passes while spreading the ball around to a variety of playmakers.

Wide receiver Danny Gray and tight ends Nolan Matthews-Harris and Grant Calcaterra each caught two touchdown passes.

UNT will need its defensive backs to play well against the Mustangs.

Prediction

It’s hard to see how UNT can pull out its game against SMU on paper. The Mean Green have lost 15 straight games to the Mustangs in Dallas.

And from the looks of it, SMU could have one of its best teams in years.

UNT showed signs of promise in its season opener but is still starting a quarterback with little experience in Ruder. The Mean Green are also in the very early stages of adjusting to a new defensive system.

UNT will keep it closer than expected thanks largely to running back DeAndre Torrey and a host of talented receivers.

SMU will just be too much in the end for the Mean Green.

Prediction: SMU 42, UNT 35

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

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