The hippogriff trophy is up for grabs as SMU welcomes North Texas to Dallas in one of the low-key best games scheduled for Saturday.
Saturday night’s matchup features two of the better quarterbacks in the state, as Mason Fine from North Texas takes on Shane Buechele from SMU. Both eclipsed the 300-yard mark last week in their openers with Fine throwing for 383 yards in the Mean Green win over Abilene Christian. Buechele threw for 360 at Arkansas State.
Both quarterback high-octane offenses with great skill talent. For Buechele, last week marked a career reboot as the former Texas starter saw his first significant action since the 2017 season. Fine on the other hand has been the face of the North Texas program for three seasons, re-writing the North Texas record book along the way.
They got here via starkly different paths, Buechele the highly coveted quarterback out of Arlington Lamar; Fine with one offer as a preferred walk-on out of Locust Grove, Oklahoma. Buechele was the savior of the Longhorn program under Charlie Strong, who lost his job to the newer savior Sam Ehlinger. Fine was an afterthought, then a curiosity when head coach Seth Littrell inserted him into the starting lineup in the second game of his true freshman campaign.
Now Buechele is back looking like the natural, running Sonny Dyke’s offense. Mason Fine is the same as he seemingly ever was, the standard-bearer. Saturday night is going to be wide open and a ton of fun.
When North Texas has the ball
The Mean Green are explosive. DeAndre Torrey is a homerun threat from anywhere on the field. Rico Bussey, Jaelon Darden, and Michael Lawrence headline a deep receiver corps. North Texas keeps uncovering new weapons like Jason Pirtle, Fine’s high school teammate, who caught three touchdown passes last week.
If North Texas has a weakness, it might be upfront, but this Mean Green line is, from a talent perspective, better than it’s been in several years.
SMU is led by linebacker Richard Moore and safety Rodney Clemons. The Ponies are an attacking defense under second-year defensive coordinator Kevin Kane.
In a result-driven business, last week, while it wasn’t pretty, was ultimately effective. SMU stopped Arkansas State when they had to and forced turnovers when they needed to.
The matchup to watch is SMU’s young cornerbacks taking on North Texas receiving corps.
When SMU has the ball
You’d be hard-pressed to find two better receivers right now then Reggie Roberson and James Proche. Last week Roberson had his best game receiving as a Mustang. Injuries kept him off the field for parts of 2018, but when he’s healthy, he’s a dominant pass catcher.
Proche has NFL written all over him and plays his best in big moments.
If SMU has issues, it will be running the football. The Mustangs averaged less than 4 yards a carry last week on the road.
SMU‘s issues on the offensive line are real, but Buechele‘s pocket presence and movement mitigate those issues.
North Texas replaces some critical components to their front seven and secondary. Last week Abilene Christian exposed the Mean Green to the tune of 31 points after the first quarter. Like Kane, Troy Reffett will attempt to make up for experience by applying pressure blitzing from anywhere on the field with his odd-man front.
If North Texas can get to Buechele, without him punishing them downfield, the Mean Green can create some havoc.