The North Texas Mean Green will be rolling into Iowa City this weekend to take on the Hawkeyes and collect their $900,000 check. Now, let’s hope they leave town with their collective tails between their legs and not celebrating a victory. I love their mascot, in my opinion, that’s a top 5 mascot name in college sports. Although…..what is a Mean Green? Ok, let’s not get too philosophical here.
First things first, this is not the same North Texas team that came into Kinnick and got rolled 62-16 in 2015. Head coach Seth Littrell is one of the up and coming names in the coaching industry and he’s brought an air raid offense to the Mean Green. Littrell cut his teeth as a grad assistant under Mark Mangino at Kansas, then moved on to Texas Tech under Mike Leach to learn the air raid offense. After Texas Tech, Littrell went to Arizona for three years as co-offensive coordinator/TE coach and coached a certain tight end you may have heard of…..Rob Gronkowski. Also, Littrell will not be unfamiliar with the Iowa Hawkeyes as he served as offensive coordinator for Indiana from 2012-2013, and in that 2012 game Indiana threw for over 400 yards defeating Iowa 24-21.
The Mean Green do have some offensive talent, starting with sophomore QB Mason Fine. Fine was a two-star recruit out of Locust Grove, OK where he was Oklahoma’s Gatorade Player of the Year….twice. He’s the only player in the state’s history to accomplish that feat. The knock on Fine is his size, as he’s only 5-11 and 180lbs. If he were 6-2/180lbs he’d probably be playing at a Texas Tech or Texas A&M, rather than North Texas. Fine was named to the Conference USA All-Freshmen team last season and is looking to build on that this fall. At running back, senior Jeffrey Wilson is the leading rusher carrying an impressive 8.5 yards per carry so far this season. In the 2015 matchup, Wilson rushed for 75 yards on 15 carries to pace the Mean Green. Sophomore Jalen Guyton is the team’s leading receiver so far this season. Through 2 games this season, Guyton has 7 catches for 172 yards with 2 touchdowns. Guyton is one of 12 receivers that have caught a pass so far this year for the Mean Green, so you could say they like to spread the ball around. North Texas threw for 424 yards against SMU last week in a 54-32 loss, but only mustered 69 yards on the ground on 27 carries. I think they CAN score through the air, but Iowa’s secondary will be hungry given their performance last week in Ames.
The defense is quite susceptible, to say the least. They employ a 3-4 defensive look, however their D line will be severely undersized as compared to Iowa’s offensive line. Last week against SMU, the Mean Green defense allowed touchdowns of 35, 40, 47, 62, & 76 yards. While only giving up 99 yards on the ground, SMU looked to do damage through the air and did so. Nate Stanley and his wide receivers should look to get the deep ball figured out this weekend. UNT gave up almost 18 yards per reception last week to go with scoring plays of 76 and 62 yards. There’s just not as much to say about the North Texas defense, and I suspect that will be the case when the game is over come Saturday evening.
This could be a tricky game, given that what North Texas likes to do on offense is exactly what Iowa will concede on defense. The secondary and linebackers will need to knock receivers off their routes at the line of scrimmage to offset the timing of their routes. That should give the D line time to get after Mason Fine. Offensively, I think this will be a James Butler game and in turn will help set up the play action passing downfield. UNT’s undersized D line will get worn down and Butler is the perfect RB to do so. Also, it’d be nice to give Akrum Wadley a little less of a workload with Penn State coming to town the following weekend.
Bottomline, Iowa is the better team here. However they need to show up from the start and not let the Mean Green hang around. Iowa needs to show up, take care of business, and THEN look towards the top 10 ranked Nittany Lions coming to Iowa City.
Prediction: Iowa 42 North Texas 17