Despite the school's massive size — enrollment approached 38,000 in 2016 — and location in the nation's biggest recruiting hotbed, the University of North Texas has never made a name for itself on the football field. The Mean Green have never won 10 games in a season and have frequently come up short on national television, failing to become relevant on the local or national stage. UNT will have a chance to change its fortune Saturday as the football team continues a season that's already one of the best in school history.
At 11 a.m., the Mean Green will take the field against Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, in the Conference USA championship game. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN 2, and both teams come in sporting spiffy 9-3 records. UNT has won eight of its last nine games and went 7-1 in conference play, losing only to Florida Atlantic. Florida Atlantic swept its conference slate, going a perfect 8-0.
With a win, UNT will get its pick of Conference USA-tied bowl games, earning a potential matchup against a major conference team over the holidays. Even with a loss, North Texas and second-year head coach Seth Littrell will get a second shot at a 10th win in a bowl game after two consecutive seasons with eight or more losses.
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In addition to being good, the Mean Green are fun to watch. The offense is capable of putting up yards and points in bunches, thanks to quarterback Mason Fine and a deep receiving corps led by sophomore Notre Dame transfer Jalen Guyton. Guyton missed UNT's last game, a win over Rice, with a concussion, but sophomores Micheal Lawrence and Rico Bussey Jr. are capable of picking up the slack. Fine runs Littrell's spread offense with aplomb, spraying the ball all over the field; seven of the team's receivers and running backs caught more than 20 passes in 2017.
Despite North Texas' offensive prowess, the team remains an 11.5 point underdog to Florida Atlantic because the defense is capable of giving up points as fast as the offense can score them. When the two teams met in October, the Owls scored 24 points on UNT in the first quarter, en route to a 69-31 blowout win. Both teams are going to score, which should make for a wild afternoon in Boca.