Sunday, June 24, 2007

Non-BCS Question Edition: North Texas

I had planned to continue my series of non-BCS conference team previews last week, but the realization that absolutely nobody was reading them caused me to back off wasting the hour and a half it takes me to write these. Thankfully both my reputation in Jackson Hole and a very optimistic forecast was enough to attract a fair amount of attention from Wyoming fans, but aside from that the locals have either not seen the previews, or just simply don't care. Hopefully the introduction of a few of Navy's 2007 opponents will garner more interest. Ok, enough of this sob story let's get to the questions!

Today: North Texas

Past Question Edition's: [Buffalo][New Mexico St.][Wyoming]

Can Todd Dodge get this team to win?

North Texas was the dominating force in the Sun Belt with four consecutive conference titles from the conference's inception in 2001 to the 2004 season. Believe it or not, there is actually a glitch in the 2005 version of NCAA '05 which will put the Mean Green into the position to play for the National Championship (!!!) a few years down the road in any given dynasty mode campaign. Todd Dodge was the very well known and respected head coach at high school powerhouse Southlake Carroll near Dallas, Texas. Dodge won four "national championships" there and built what is considered to be one of, if not the best, high school programs in the country. I love the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the team and feel confident that his reputation will start to bring recruits into Denton down the road. However the ENTIRE coaching staff here has been overhauled and while some people may want to point to the Rice example of last year, the Mean Green should struggle even in what figures to b a wide open (as usual) Sun Belt conference. He's installing a new, run-oriented spread system that could be a little much for the players to digest in the course of one off season. I hate to say this, but this team looks like it will only win a few games (say 3-4) next season, although Dodge should build a winner in the long-run.

Who the Heck is the Quarterback?

Hey, your guess is as good as mine. I didn't write too much in my quarterback preview last week, mostly because it seemed too confusing at the time. It now seems like most preseason publications are projecting Jr. Daniel Meager as the starting quarterback. Meager has the most starting experience of anyone on the roster, but he's hit an unimpressive 51% of his passes for just 8 touchdowns and 14 interceptions during his career. Jr. Matt Phillips, who also started last year, is also a possibility, although his 49% completion percentage doesn't look very good on paper. If that wasn't enough, senior Woody Wilson, who started five games last season, also returns. All these quarterbacks should be better this season, especially considering Coach Dodge's reputation of working wonders with quarterbacks (he mentored current Missouri starter Chase Daniel at Southlake Carroll. Meager.)

Wait, Jamario Thomas is still in college?

Yes, and he may be one of the few bright spots on Dodge's work in progress this year. It seems like forever ago when the North Texas freshmen ran for 1,801 yards an 17 touchdowns, and by forever ago I mean 2004. Thomas was banged up in 2005 and sat behind Patrick Cobbs, but was ineffective last season despite having an experienced O-Line in front of him. Thomas returns this season for a final encore, but the leagues defenses have become more stout since he captured Player of the Year honers in '04. Even though Dodge is moving the team away from the more run oriented system, the change of direction may play more into Thomas' favor by getting opposing defenses to stop keying in on him so much. With that being said, the offensive line only returns two starters and typically it takes a few years to develop linemen in a new system, so it could be tough going for Thomas.

Just For Fun: The team's all-time leading receiver, Johnny Quinn, signed as an undrafted free agent with my favorite NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. Just in case you wanted to see how bad NT's offensive line was last year:

Adam's Take: I'm not a fan of the Sun Belt conference but I'm not out to rip it like everyone else in the college football blogging world. The North Texas-Navy game will be an interesting matchup because it's one of the rare games in which a Sun Belt team will not play a "body bag" game against a powerhouse team from a BCS conference. MTSU proved that Sun Belt teams could be competitive against middle of the pack teams by beating Vanderbilt in 2005, but as it stands right now the conference is at the bottom of the FBS barrel. While I think the Midshipmen should handle the Mean Green without too much trouble (Navy always clicks late in the year) North Texas should be able to win two or three games within the conference. North Texas struggled with turnovers last season (an indication that they should be better in 2007) although with the changes in the coaching staff it will be hard to see any immediate effects. I don't like to project team in this range but I really don't see the Mean Green winning more than four games in 2007, and would not be surprised if they went 2-10. Dodge will get this program back on track, but not this year.

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