The Houston Cougars will attempt to finally open their season at home against the North Texas Mean Green on Saturday. North Texas is the fourth opponent that Houston has expected to face for a season opener after games with three other opponents were all canceled due to issues related to COVID-19. Houston's opener against Rice was postponed back in August. Last week Houston's game against Memphis was canceled, and then the replacement game with the Baylor Bears was canceled as well. North Texas is 1-1 after beating Houston Baptist 57-31 on Sept. 5 and losing to SMU on the road 65-35 last Saturday.
These two teams met last season, with the Cougars winning the game 46-25 as an 8.5 point dog in Denton, Texas.
(This game has been canceled due to UNT's COVID issues)
Mean Green and Mustangs combine for 100 pointsNorth Texas went 4-8 last year and similarly began that season, with a 20 point win over Abilene Christian and a 22 point loss to SMU in the first two weeks. This season the Mean Green returned six starters to the offense that scored 30.6 points and 418.6 yards per game. Still, the quarterback position has seen a significant change after the graduation of Mason Fine who threw for 12,143 yards, 90 TDs, and 32 interceptions in his career.
With the departure of Fine, the two-time CUSA player of the year, the Mean Green has used a combo of sophomores in a two-quarterback system so far. Austin Aune is 19 or 36 with 387 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception on the season, while Jason Bean has thrown four touchdown passes with one pick while completing 15 of 27 for 246 yards. Both QBs have also added a touchdown on the ground. The Bears rushing game is led by Oscar Adaway, who has 222 yards on 8.9 yards per carry. Adaway rushed for 114 yards on only five attempts in the opener against HBU and carried the ball 20 times for 114 yards against SMU last week. Jaleon Darden, a 5'9 senior and Houston native, has caught five of the teams seven passing touchdowns this season with a team-leading 137 yards and 10 catches.
FINAL | North Texas drops their first game of the season to SMU.— North Texas Football 😷 (@MeanGreenFB) September 20, 2020
The Mean Green will look to bounce back on the road in Houston next week.@Austin_Aune | 13-25, 276 yards, 2 TDs@JDFlash1x | 5 catches, 66 yards, 2 TDs@1OA3_ | 20 carries, 104 yards#GMG | #UNiTeNorthTexas pic.twitter.com/MwhGPk2XZX
Collectively the Mean Green are averaging 619 yards of total offense a game, 333 passing, and 286 on the ground. As impressive as the offensive numbers are, the defensive numbers are worse with the Mean Green giving up 639.5 yards per game, 412 in the air, and 227.5 on the ground. North Texas allowed 32.5 points and 410.9 yards per contest last season and have returned five starters from the defensive unit.
Cougars hope 4th time is a charmIn the first year under new head coach Dana Holgorsen, the Houston Cougars had a very disappointing 4-8 record last season, snapping the program's streak of six consecutive bowl games. It was also a very bizarre season that saw many players redshirt, including quarterback D'Eriq King, who played the first four games. King wound up transferring to Miami-Florida.
The Cougars return nine starters on offense led by junior quarterback Clayton Tune who completed 59.2% of his passes last season while throwing for 1,533 yards, 11 TDs, and 9 INTs. Tune also added 244 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Marquez Stevenson, a 6-0 senior wide receiver, is the team's top returning target after catching 52 passes for 907 yards and 9 TDs last season. The Cougars return all four of their top receivers last season. Four seniors return from an experienced offensive line.
Senior Kyle Porter, who transferred from Texas, is the leading returning running back for the Cougars, after gaining 616 yards on 4.7 yards per carry.
The Cougars struggled defensively in 2019, allowing 34 points and 467.5 yards per game. The defense, however, should be much improved with a lot of experience returning. The Cougars were hit heavy with injuries in 2019, and return seven starters, and also welcome in five transfers from FBS programs who had to sit out last season.
- Houston is 1-4 in last 5 home games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Trends aside, the 2020 football season is not like anything we have ever seen before. I think three touchdowns are too many to lay on a Houston team playing its first game of the season against a North Texas squad with two games under its belt. The Mean Green defense has been horrendous, but I think their offensive firepower will make enough plays against a Houston defense that ranked 124th against the pass last year and keep this game close enough to cover.
Prediction: North Texas +22
Full-Game Total Pick
These two teams combined for 71 points last year. Although both rosters have seen significant changes, I still expect another high scoring affair. Houston has nine offensive starters back from a team that put up 30.7 ppg last year and faces a defense that has given up 96 points in two games.
The Houston defense gave up 34 ppg, ranking 113th in the nation last year, and will be playing their first game of the season against a North Texas team that has scored 46 points per game and producing over 600 yards per game of total offense. All my confidence is in the over.
Prediction: Over 69.5