South Alabama (2-7) at North Texas (3-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Apogee Stadium (30,850) -- Denton, Texas. Television: KTXA. Home Record: South Alabama 2-3, North Texas 2-2. Away Record: South Alabama 0-4, North Texas 1-4. Neutral Record: South Alabama 0-0, North Texas 0-0. Conference Record: South Alabama 1-4, North Texas 2-3. Series Record: First Meeting.
GAME NOTES: In its final home game of the season the North Texas Mean Green will be in search of a crucial conference victory when the South Alabama Jaguars, looking for just their second win against an FBS opponent, roll into Apogee Stadium Saturday evening.
It is not all that surprising that South Alabama sits at just 2-7 on the season as the Jaguars are making their debut at the FBS level this season. Although those seven losses have come with their fair share of routs, the Jaguars have stayed competitive in many games. Three of the team's seven losses have been by eight points or less, including a 28-20 defeat at home to FIU last weekend. South Alabama even won a Sun Belt Conference game with a double overtime victory over Florida Atlantic at the end of October.
Things have been only slightly brighter in Denton, Texas. The Mean Green are 3-6 overall after losing back-to-back games in the last two weeks. Both of those games came in less than competitive affairs with a 38-21 defeat to Middle Tennessee before a 37-19 loss to Arkansas State. Middling results at home (2-2) for North Texas have still been much better than the squad's efforts on the road where the Mean Green has just one win in five tries.
As this is the first season for South Alabama not only as a Sun Belt team but an FBS school, this is the first-ever meeting between these two squads.
If last week is any indication, what South Alabama has lacked this season is consistent scoring from the red zone. The Jaguars had plenty of opportunities to get themselves ahead in the losing effort but failed to do so by converting just one red zone trip into a touchdown, while on the other side FIU had two touchdowns in two chances. On the season South Alabama has scored on 80.6 percent of its red zone trips but has settled for a conference-high 12 field goals in those situations. Largely due to that South Alabama is second to last in the conference in scoring (19.7 ppg).
The poor point totals are also not helped by the team ranking second to last in total offense (33.8.9 ypg) however. Leading the charge for the offense is quarterback Ross Metheny. The Jaguar signal caller has completed 55 percent of his passes this season for 1,255 yards and eight touchdowns, which is only one more score than he has interceptions (7). C.J. Bennet (52-of-95, 543 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs) has seen time in five games as well.
Low yardage totals in the passing game has meant there have not been a great deal of opportunity for Jaguar receivers to separate themselves. Jereme Jones (28 receptions, 219 yards, 5 TDs) has the best numbers in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Brynt Lavender (27 receptions, 229 yards) is second in receptions, but has not been very effective in creating big plays, averaging only 8.5 yards per reception.
In the run game Demetre Baker is the top back with his 112 carries almost more than twice as much as any other player. Baker has rushed for 556 yards on those carries and three touchdowns. Baker runs north and south well and has not been victim to much in terms of negative yards, with only 14 lost yards this season.
What has translated to the FBS level for South Alabama is its defensive effort, at least in comparison to the rest of the conference. The Jaguars are currently the second ranked squad in the Sun Belt in total defense (364.7 ypg).
Jake Johnson has been at the forefront of those defensive efforts with a conference-high 92 tackles. Johnson doesn't just make sure to bring down players past the line of scrimmage as he has also been a force in the backfield, recording 11.5 tackles for loss, the third most in the Sun Belt. Enrique Williams (81 tackles) and Alex Page (42 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks) have also been stalwarts for the unit.
North Texas has also had its issues scoring this season ranking just ahead of South Alabama in the Sun Belt with the seventh-best scoring offense in the Sun Belt (20.8 ppg). THat lack of scoring can be firmly blamed on the team's lack of success in the red zone. The Mean Green are the worst team in converting red zone chances into scores with a 68.8 conversion rate this season, including a conference-low 16 touchdowns.
With the team often playing from behind North Texas has been focused to air it out often. That has made Derek Thompson need to up his play. Thompson has completed 57.1 percent of his passes this season for 2,064 yards and 10 touchdowns but has also been intercepted nine times.
The passing game took a hit a week ago when Brelan Chancellor was lost for the season with a collarbone injury. Chancellor had brought 25 passes for 450 yards and a team-leading five touchdown passes. Leading receiver Ivan Delgado (33 receptions, 464 yards) will need to be even more productive over the next few weeks, while guys like Darnell Smith (14 receptions, 235 yards) will need to step up.
There has been a tandem of running backs that have powered the Mean Green. Brandin Byrd (152 carries, 572 yards,2 TDs) has produced the most yards but has not been able to break off many big runs. He averages just 3.8 yards per carry and his season-long rush is 20 yards. The second-half of the duo is Antoinne Jimmerson, who has 522 yards on 105 carries and five touchdowns.
There isn't much to boast about on the defensive side of the ball for North Texas this season. The Mean Green are near the middle of the conference in total defense (411.7 ypg), while ranking third in scoring defense (28.1 ppg).
Zachary Orr (82 tackles) is the most active defender. Making stops in the backfield however, has fallen to K.C. Obi (9.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) and Derek Akunne (7.0 tackles for loss). In the secondary, Zac Whitfield (43 tackles, 10 passes defended, 2 INT) has been a consistent contributor.
Neither of these teams has enough time left to really make a dent in the hole they have dug themselves into at this point in the season. South Alabama has shown that it can be competitive with some teams in the conference and North Texas is a team that the Jaguars match up with favorably, but the homefield advantage tips the scales in North Texas' favor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Texas 21, South Alabama 14
11/07 10:39:11 ET