North Texas (2-3) at Houston (1-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 6, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Robertson Stadium (32,000) -- Houston, Texas. Television: Comcast Sports South. Home Record: UNT 1-1, Houston 0-2. Away Record: UNT 1-2, Houston 0-1. Neutral Record: UNT 0-0, Houston 1-0. Conference Record: UNT 1-1, Houston 1-0. Series Record: North Texas leads, 7-6.
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars will try to build some momentum this week when they host the North Texas Mean Green at Robertson Stadium for a Lone Star State battle.
The Mean Green are coming off a 20-14 win at FAU, which improved their overall record to 2-3. North Texas began 2012 with a loss at LSU (41-14) before it returned home to tackle Texas Southern (34-7). It then suffered a pair of hard fought losses to Kansas State (35-21) and Troy (14-7), before getting back on track against the Owls. A win over Houston would give UNT back-to-back wins for the first time since 2004.
Houston picked up the first regular season victory of the Tony Levine era last week as it handled Rice, 35-14, in a bout with its cross-town rival at Reliant Stadium. The much needed victory ended a three-game losing streak after the Cougars lost to Texas State (30-13), Louisiana Tech (56-49), and UCLA (37-6) to start the season.
North Texas holds a narrow, 7-6 lead in the all-time series between these program. Behind a strong performance from Chase Keenum, Houston cruised to a 48-23 victory in last season's encounter.
Despite its losing record and difficult schedule which had two nationally ranked opponents, North Texas has outgained its five opponents by 54 yards this season. The Mean Green still rank eighth out of nine Sun Belt schools with an average of 361.6 yards per game.
The offense appears to be motioning into a higher gear with junior QB Derek Thompson increasing his passing yards total each game. Thompson's latest season-high was 251 yards on 18-of-30 passing. He has shown much more poise and confidence in his second year as the team's starter.
Brelan Chancellor has made Thompson's job much more enjoyable this season. Chancellor is coming off a career-best 135-receiving yard performance against FAU. The junior moved into eighth place in UNT history in career all-purpose yards with his spectacular performance.
Lance Dunbar's graduation was expected to leave a big void in UNT's rushing attack, but Antoinne Jimmerson and Brandin Byrd have filled in for the school's all-time leading rusher very nicely this season. Jimmerson leads the team with 330 yard on 59 carries, while Byrd has 284 yards on 82 attempts.
Not including the season opening loss to LSU, the Mean Green's defense has held all of its opponents under 400 yards of total offense. The ball hawking secondary ranks seventh nationally with eight interceptions in five games.
Houston will test North Texas's defensive backs, as it comes in with the eighth most productive passing offense (350.3 ypg) in the FBS. The Cougars had great offensive outings this season against Louisiana Tech and Rice, but they were disappointing versus Texas State and UCLA.
David Piland had some big shoes to fill this season. He is doing a great job at racking up yards and ranks fourth in the FBS with 378 total yards per game, but he has been picked off seven times in four games. Piland completed 26- of-43 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Houston to its first win of the season last week.
Larry McDuffey was Piland's favorite target, catching eight passes for 100 yards and one touchdown. Daniel Spencer also had a strong effort, catching five passes for 99 yards and one score. Spencer leads the team with 364 yards on the season.
While the running game is sometimes forgotten in Houston's pass happy attack, Charles Sims has been effective when given the chance. Sims has tallied 300 yards and five touchdowns on 58 carries.
The Cougars are coming off of their best defensive performance of the season. They held the Taylor McHargue-less Owls to 343 yards of total offense after giving up an average of 536.3 in their first three games.
Phillip Steward (47 tackles) and Trevon Stewart (39) are ranked first and fourth, respectively, in the C-USA in total tackles.
Houston appeared to have found its rhythm last week against Rice. The Mean Green need to take advantage of the turnover prone Piland if they hope to reach the .500 mark.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 35, North Texas 31
10/03 10:51:04 ET