Marshall comes into Apogee at 1-3. The one? The Herd beat Morgan State 62-0. Otherwise they've lost to Louisville, Akron, and Pitt. A tough schedule, but seriously, Akron?
North Texas on the other hand has already met our win ceiling for 2016. They're playing with house money. They're also playing well. The Mean Green came back against Rice after spotting the Owls 17 points. Then a week later, UNT gave a good accounting of themselves against a CUSA contender, Middle Tennessee before fading late.
Now comes Marshall, a team that has shown the ability to score even in losses, but man does Marshall give up the points. The Herd are 127th in the FBS allowing 55 points a game. That's Tech level defensive ineptitude.
North Texas may have found their quarterback of the present and the future in young Mason Fine. Fine has shown wisdom beyond his years in taking the reigns of North Texas' offense. Take away a horrible outing at Florida and Fine is completing almost 60% of his passes. Fine's numbers have improved each week and Seth Littrell is trusting his freshman quarterback with more and more of the offense.
Now the bad news, UNT's offensive line and by association, its running game tanked last week. As in five yards on 22 carries tanked. The rush game has been bolstered by a huge day against Bethune Cookman, in three of the four other games the Mean Green failed to hit the century mark. Against FBS opponents the Mean Green are averaging 2.4 yards a carry.
So now comes Marshall, a target ripe for a UNT win. Can UNT make the most of the opportunity? Here are a few keys.
1. Protect, protect, protect. UNT allows 4.2 sacks a game. That's good enough for 126th in the country. Only San Jose State and Miami (Ohio) are worse. UNT's offensive line has been the issue even coming out of the spring, the unit has performed, sadly, as expected. If they can protect Mason Fine there are plays to be made against Marshall.
2. Establish some run game. Something. Anything. UNT has to be multidimensional. An effective running game isn't just an issue of execution, it's also an issue of commitment. Think of run plays as body blows. Deliver them early and often and they'll pay dividends later in more explosive running games and pass plays downfield. We're learning about Graham Harrell as a play caller. Those of Harrell's ilk, i.e. Mike Leach, Sonny Dykes, Lincoln Riley, tend to be quick to abandon the run. Jeffrey Wilson is too good a player to neglect the rushing attack.
3. Be physical up front. Marshall's offensive line isn't bad. They rank in the forties in both sacks allowed and tackles for loss allowed. The Herd average 3.9 yards a carry, North Texas on the other hand gives up 5.3 yards a rush attempt. UNT needs to force Marshall closer to their 3.9 yards a rush, more than that and Marshall will be able to dictate the terms of the game to the Mean Green.