Keys to the Game: North Texas at Southern Miss

The Mean Green rebounded from their two-game skid with a crucial conference win over UAB. Now North Texas turns its sights to Southern Miss and another vital CUSA West matchup. A few keys for the Green and White. 

It's go time

All the offseason monotony, the weights, the running, spring ball, training table, fall camp, even those pre-conference games all lead to this, a big conference game against a fellow CUSA West foe. Southern Miss enters the game at 2-1, it'll be their opener in the league. When North Texas' schedule dropped last spring, this is the one we circled to find out if the Mean Green were contenders or pretenders to the league crown. Saturday night should be fun. 

Balance

North Texas presents one of the most balanced offenses in CUSA. Mason Fine continues to take the next steps, from complimentary to reliable to asset. Fine's receiving targets are coming along as well. Michael Lawrence, Jalen Guyton, Turner Smiley, and even Kelvin Smith have all stepped up. Then there's Jeffery Wilson, if he's healthy, maybe the best back in the state and certainly one of the best in CUSA. Against North Texas' offense, you have to pick your poisons and with Graham Harrell's development as a play caller that's getting tougher to do. North Texas faces perhaps the most efficient defense they've played this season in Southern Miss, balance will be the key to success.

About that pass defense

North Texas pass defense ranking has dropped from 26th last season to 107th this season. UAB and SMU both torched the Mean Green secondary for more than 300 yards passing. Last year, in thirteen games North Texas, allowed just two 300 yard games. Talent isn't the issue; execution seems more the Achilles heel. Southern Miss will challenge North Texas' secondary, if the Mean Green want a win, they'd better respond. 

Notes and Numbers

  • This is the twelfth game between North Texas and USM, the Golden Eagles hold a 6-5 edge. 
  • USM is second in the FBS in 3rd down defense, allowing just 14% conversions. 
  • They're also 4th in the FBS in passing yards allowed with just 122 per game. 
  • North Texas average 13 more points per game in 2017 over 2016 (37 to 24 ppg).
  • North Texas ranks 6th in the FBS in yards per rush. 
  • North Texas had sixteen plays of fifteen yards or more from scrimmage against UAB. 

The Roundup...