The Mean Green travel to Ruston to take on Skip Holtz' Bulldogs in a critical CUSA West showdown. A few keys for the Green:
The Mean Green must continue to work to put their staggering loss at FAU behind them and compete for what's ahead of them the CUSA West title. That journey continues in Ruston against a team with identical goals, but a handicap. The Bulldogs are currently a game back of the Mean Green in the loss column, but they'll need help to win the division. The Bulldogs lost to Southern Miss at home, so they'll need someone to knock off USM to get back into good standing. For North Texas, they're firmly in control of their destiny, and a win over the Bulldogs cements that status. They've got a game in hand over all their pursuers except Louisiana Tech. This is a golden opportunity to take a giant step towards an attainable goal, but they'll have to beat a good team, albeit a banged up one, on the road to do it.
The Mean Green are the worst defensive team in CUSA. They allow 37 points a game, are second to last in total defense, and dead freaking last in pass defense. That last number is surprising given the talent and depth the Mean Green return in the secondary. In league North Texas gives up 40 points a game, FAU's 69 point outburst didn't help, but they allowed 43 to UAB and 38 to ODU. Those are the most two teams have scored all year. North Texas might be better equipped than most to deal with a shootout, but it'd be nice if they didn't have to score 41 to get a win.
Be prepared to counterpunch
Winning on the road is often about withstanding the initial push or punch from the home side, get your bearings, and counter punch. North Texas has proven they can withstand a punch (see Southern Miss) but also shown that they have a glass jaw (see FAU). Louisiana Tech needs this one, and once again the Mean Green have a rather significant bullseye on their backs. The Bulldogs are going to come out quick and try to replicate what FAU did. Louisiana Tech should have a big crowd for homecoming and will feed off that energy. How the Mean Green respond will be critical.
Meet J'Mar Smith
Ja'Mar Smith is having a pretty good year as he tries to replace last year's departed start, Ryan Higgins. While Smith isn't as efficient as Higgins, he does attack downfield, averaged over 13 yards a completion. That number is first in CUSA and top thirty nationally. Smith is a bit sporadic; he rebounded from an awful home performance against Southern Miss to play well at Rice. He does value the football, only turning it over four times through the air.
Higgins, by the way, put together one of the great passing years in FBS history with 41 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions and 4,617. Smith won't hit those marks, but you can't expect him to, but Smith could be better in his efficiency, completing just 56% of his passes. On third down his completion percentage drops down even further. Smith is a willing runner, but he runs to extend plays to create options downfield.
News and Notes
Saturday marks the fifteenth game between the Mean Green and Bulldogs.
Louisiana Tech owns the lead with nine victories to North Texas six.
The Bulldogs have won three straight in the series.
Louisiana Tech's Teddy Veal leads CUSA in receptions with 50.
Mason Fine continues to lead CUSA in passing at almost 300 yards per game.
North Texas' 484 yards per game ranks 16th nationally.
The Mean Green's Trevor Moore has converted 132 straight extra point attempts.