The North Texas Mean Green (1-8, 1-5) will head to the Smoky Mountains as they face the Tennessee Volunteers (5-4, 3-3) in a non-conference contest Saturday afternoon. This marks the first meeting ever between the two programs.
North Texas saw their one game win streak come to an abrupt end as they were pulverized 56-13 on the road by Louisiana Tech. Tennessee won their second straight and third in the last four games with a 27-24 home win over South Carolina. Kickoff from Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee is scheduled for 12:00 pm ET and will be televised on the SEC Network. Tennessee is a hefty 40.5 point favorite in this contest.
North Texas couldn’t build on the momentum of their win over UTSA as Louisiana Tech had their way with the Mean Green. The Mean Green was down 21-0 after one quarter, 35-0 at the half and 49-0 after three quarters before finally getting on the board. North Texas was outgained 573-316 and gave up 25 first downs while picking up 20; the Mean Green did hold the ball for 32:53 in the contest. The Mean Green turned the ball over four times, one of which was returned for a touchdown on a fumble return; that helped negate the fact that they forced three takeaways.
The Mean Green is dismal offensively as they are 107th in passing offense with an average of 180.1 yards per game and 76th in rushing by putting up 165.8 yards per contest. North Texas is getting outscored on average by four touchdowns a game as they are scoring 17.6 points per game, putting them 124th in scoring offense while ranking as the third worst scoring defense in the FBS by allowing 45.6 points per game. Three quarterbacks have seen action this season and they’ve struggled: they have combined to complete 46.3 percent of their throws for 1,621 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions while averaging just 5 yards per pass attempt. They may have found something with DaMarcus Smith, who, while he’s 74 of 157 on the season for 799 yards with eight touchdowns and four picks plus 355 rushing yards and a score, put up four scoring passes against Western Kentucky. Jeffery Wilson leads the Mean Green with 114 carries for 683 yards and a touchdown while Antoinne Jimerson has 58 carries for 220 yards and a touchdown. Carlos Harris leads the Mean Green with 53 receptions for 668 yards and seven scores; Marcus Smith is next in line with his 22 grabs for 204 yards while Turner Smiley contributes 20 catches for 224 yards and a score. Trevor Moore has hit all 18 extra points and is 8 of 12 on field goals though he doesn’t have a kick longer than 38 yards.
Tennessee blew 17-0 and 24-17 leads but managed to take the lead late and held on when South Carolina fumbled the ball at the Volunteer 13 yard line with 32 seconds to play. The Volunteers outgained the Gamecocks 408-385 but gave up 23 first downs to their 19 and held the ball for just 27:39 in the game. In addition to that, Tennessee committed three turnovers in the game, one of which set up a South Carolina touchdown by giving possession at their 13 yard line; their lone takeaway did manage to seal the game.
The Volunteers are currently 77th in the nation in passing offense with an average of 215 yards per game; they are 29th in the nation in rushing offense by putting up 207.3 yards per game. Tennessee is tied for 24th in the nation in scoring offense as they average 35.1 points per game while they stand 49th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 24.2 points per contest. Joshua Dobbs is the primary signal caller for the Volunteers; he’s hit 147 of 251 passes for 1,760 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions while ranking second on the team with 473 yards and seven scores on the ground. Jalen Hurd is the lead back in the 1-2 power combination at running back for the Volunteers as he has 185 carries for 815 yards and nine scores; Alvin Kamara (58 carries, 376 yards, 4 TD) is the second back in that setup. Josh Malone is tied for second on the team with 23 receptions for 315 yards and two touchdowns while Kamara has a team high 24 grabs out of the backfield. Ethan Wolf (19 catches, 268 yards, 2 TD), Von Pearson (23 receptions, 285 yards, TD) and Josh Smith (17 catches, 229 yards, 2 TD) are secondary targets when Dobbs drops back to throw. Aaron Medley has kicked all 40 extra points but has hit only 12 of 20 field goal attempts this season with a long of 45 yards after hitting 20 of 26 as a freshman.
Tennessee is 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games, 6-2 ATS in their last eight after an ATS loss and 5-2 ATS in their last seven against Conference USA foes. North Texas is 5-12 ATS in their last 17 overall, 1-4 ATS in their last five after an ATS loss, 1-4 ATS in their last five on grass, 1-10 ATS in their last 11 on the road and 0-4 ATS in their last four non-conference games.
North Texas has been no match for most of their foes this season and it’s hard to see them being much of a threat against a Tennessee team that has been decent this season. They beat a ranked Georgia team and suffered tough losses to Oklahoma and Florida earlier this year. North Texas is several rungs down that ladder and this should be a blowout, plain and simple.