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2010 NCAA Football Preview: North Texas Mean Green

2009 Record: 2-10 (1-7 in Sun Belt)
2009 Bowl: None
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Todd Dodge (5-31 at North Texas; 2-20 in Sun Belt games)
Non-Conference Schedule: at Clemson (9/4), Rice (9/11), at Army (9/18), Kansas State (11/27)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 26.6 points per game (4th in Sun Belt)
Rushing Yards/Game: 185 (2nd in Sun Belt)
Passing Yards/Game: 223 (5th in Sun Belt)
Total Yards/Game: 408 (4th in Sun Belt) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 35.6 points per game (8th in Sun Belt, 112 in the Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 195 (6th in Sun Belt)
Passing Yards/Game: 216 (1st in Sun Belt)
Total Yards/Game: 412 (5th in Sun Belt)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: -1.17 per game (last in Sun Belt, 117th in Nation)
Penalties: 57 yards per game (4th in Sun Belt)

Returning Starters
Offense: 10
Defense: 8
Kicker/Punter: 1

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Nathan Tune, Sr (69 of 107 for 646 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT)
Rushing: RB Lance Dunbar, Jr (200 carries for 1378 yds, 17 TD, 6.8 ypc, 114 ypg)
Receiving: WR Jamal Jackson, Sr (71 rec, 701 yds, 6 TD, 5.9 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Craig Robertson, Sr (107)
Sacks: DE Brandon Akpunku, Sr (4)
Interceptions: CB Royce Hill, Jr (3)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #115
Pre-Snap Read: #120

2010 Pre-Season Sun Belt Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #7
Phil Steele: #3

Last year North Texas's turnover margin was worse than all but 3 teams (UGA, Tulane and Miami of Ohio).  In addition there were only 8 teams that gave up more points than North Texas. North Texas had a middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt offense but when you are getting killed on turnovers it's going to translate negatively on the scoreboard. The only wins Todd Dodge managed last year were against Ball State in the opener and against Western Kentucky. North Texas lost a total of 5 games by 5 or less points so they are in the ballpark they just aren't connecting with the curve ball. One has to wonder how much longer Todd Dodge will be the coach if he can't turn those close games around. Some good news is that, along with Western Kentucky, North Texas returns the most starters in the Sun Belt. We reached out to Brett Vito of the Mean Green Blog of the Denton-Record Chronicle to find out more information about North Texas.

What are the major strengths of the team?

Lance Dunbar is one of the best running backs at a non-AQ school one is going to find, and he will be running behind an experienced offensive line this season. UNT ran the ball well last season and should be good again this year.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

UNT opens at Clemson. It doesn’t get much tougher than that. I would say the first key game will be Rice in the second week of the season. That is a game UNT needs to win, and the Mean Green will actually have a shot.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

I’m not playing, but for UNT, that game against Clemson could be a bit scary. There is a chance it could get out of hand. And more importantly, there is always a chance that UNT could lose a few key players before the games that it needs to win come up on the schedule.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

I don’t think people give Esteban Santiago enough credit. He has been a rock at right tackle for years.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Lance Dunbar, without a doubt.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

I would say Craig Robertson. He is a senior linebacker who has been about as consistent a player as one could ask for in the college game. He is out there every game and produces. UNT has been terrible defensively the last several years. I hate to imagine what that defense would look like without him.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

UNT needs either Nathan Tune or Derek Thompson to play well while taking over at quarterback. UNT has had a revolving door at quarterback ever since Scott Hall graduated in 2004. Tune has started a couple of games last year, while Thompson played just one series. If Tune starts, he will be the sixth starting quarterback in six seasons. If UNT goes with Thompson, he will be the seventh starter in six seasons.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

It’s tough to say, but my guess is Jamize Olawale, a tight end out of the California JC ranks. UNT has a new offensive coordinator who plans on using the tight end more and Olawale seems like the type of guy who could emerge.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

UNT desperately needs help at defensive end, especially now that Eddrick Gilmore has graduated. UNT signed Mike Miller to play the strong side. He had better be what they expect him to be, because I don’t see a whole lot of other options.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

I am picking UNT to go 4-8. That record would double last season’s win total. I have a hard time seeing UNT beating Clemson, Kansas State, Troy or Middle Tennessee. That leaves eight games. UNT will win some of those games, but hasn’t put together back-to-back wins since 2004. UNT could get on a roll, but with a new quarterback and a defense that still has to put it together, I have a hard time seeing the team getting on the kind of roll that would lead to a .500 season.

Make sure to check out the Denton Record-Chronicle's Mean Green Blog for more insight on North Texas and Sun Belt football.

Previous Sun Belt Previews
Troy Trojans

Next Preview: Rice Owls

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