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2006 Season Preview: North Texas

I can smell it? The summer heat is peaking and the college football banter is beginning to crescendo. With just 46 days until kickoff, it?s time to start the previews. We?ll take the Texas opponents sequentially, which means our first look is North Texas. (We played around with some super early previews back in February, but it was far too early.)

When North Texas Has The Ball Uh, duck? The 2006 Texas defense against the 2006 North Texas offense is a laughably huge mismatch. The good news for the Mean Green is that they?ll be better than they were last year, when they fielded what was arguably the Sun Belt Conference?s worst offense.

It?s entirely appropriate that their projected starting quarterback?s name is Daniel Meager. As a freshman last year, Meager did his best Rhett Bomar impression, completing just 50% of his passes for 941 yards. Okay, to be fair, he made Rhett Bomar look really good. But that gives you an idea of how bad Meager was.

With the expected improvement from a second-year quarterback, plus the return of four solid if unspectacular linemen, and the speedy Jamario Thomas at tailback (he led the nation in rushing in 2004), the offense can only improve. North Texas runs a version of the zone read, but with abysmal quarterback play, they failed to move the chains last season.

The Horror Show

How bad were the Mean Green on offense last year? Enjoy some of these underwhelming statistics:

Rushing: 143 yards per game, 8 touchdowns, 3.9 yards per rush

Passing: 129 yards per game(!), 9 touchdowns, 5.1 yards per pass attempt

3rd Down: 49 of 162, 30%

Points per game: 14.3

These are just the basics. They were penalized an ungodly number of times, they turned the ball over at a painful clip? it was just a bad, bad year for the Mean Green on offense. Only the relatively useful Patrick Cobbs contributed much. And he?s gone to graduation.

It?s easy to forget that this team won the Sunbelt Conference in 2004 ? the fall from the top to the bottom of the conference was particularly ugly. Still, enough starters return on offense that some improvement should be expected.

Just not against Texas. Three of their offensive linemen check in under 300 pounds, and while improvement is expected from the unit, it?s going to be 60 minutes of hell for them on September 2nd. Without the ability to run the ball against Texas, they?ll have to see what they can muster with quick passes and hope that Meager (or whomever wins the job; Matt Phillips and JUCO transfer Woody Wilson are competing as well) is feeling sexy.

Mercifully, North Texas place kicker Nick Bazaldua graduated. His 8 misses in 16 attempts further hamstrung an already challenged group.

When Texas Has The Ball Anyone remember what Jamaal Charles did to Rice last year? He?s going to have fun with North Texas, too, though their defensive line isn?t the worst Texas will see.

The real story in this game, of course ? the only story (except for whether Texas covers the spread) ? is the quarterback play for Texas? two freshmen. We all know about McCoy and Snead by now, but what should we expect to see in their debuts?

With Ohio State looming a week away, Greg Davis and Mack Brown will get both players in the game frequently, and ask them to try to score. Under different circumstances, you?d see Texas rush the ball 196 times and just pound North Texas into submission. My best guess for this year, under these circumstances, will be a more wide open attack to acclimate the new passers to the collegiate game.

For each quarterback, the pressure to perform well will be tremendous. Every Longhorn fan in the world will be watching and breaking down every little thing that they do. Hey, welcome to big time college football, boys. I?ll just be hoping that one or both of them come equipped with a serious pair of juevos. They?re gonna need ?em.

Texas fans will also be watching closely to see exactly how Greg Davis intends to run the offense. Both quarterbacks are above average runners ? we?re not talking about Ryan Mallet here. Still, the offensive game plan can?t be the same as it was for Vince Young. What adjustments will Davis make? Will Texas stick with the shotgun zone read offensive scheme, or will we see a more traditional offense?

One thing?s for sure: we?ll all be watching closely.

The Prediction (Caveat Emptor): This is a sticky business, and we?re still far enough out that a number of things can, and will, change. I?ll just say this: the opening line is Texas by 40. My crystal ball says that?s too low. With so much at stake in the second week, and with two new quarterbacks who the coaches want to push right away, there won?t be any letting up early. Give me Texas, 51-3

Up Next: the Ohio State University