North Texas (2-2) at Tulane (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (72,003) -- New Orleans, Louisiana. Television: Fox College Sports. Home Record: North Texas 2-0, Tulane 1-1. Away Record: North Texas 0-2, Tulane 2-1. Neutral Record: North Texas 0-0, Tulane 0-0. Conference Record: North Texas 0-0, Tulane 1-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: In its first ever league game as a member of Conference USA, the North Texas Mean Green will head to New Orleans for a contest with the Tulane Green Wave at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Mean Green had a bye this past weekend, after going toe to toe with SEC power Georgia. Against the nationally ranked Bulldogs, the Mean Green hung tough, with the game tied at 21-21 midway through the third quarter. However, North Texas allowed Georgia to score 24 unanswered points to finish the game and take the win. North Texas has split its first four games.
As for Tulane, it rebounded from an embarrassing road loss to Syracuse (52-17) with an impressive 31-14 road win over ULM this past weekend. Orleans Darkwa was the star in the contest as he picked up 118 yards and a touchdown. At 3-2, Tulane is above .500 through five games for the first time since 2003.
This marks the first matchup between these two teams.
Even though it has yet to play a down in C-USA action, North Texas has been holding its own in comparison to the rest of the league on the offensive side of the ball. The Mean Green rank fourth in the conference in total offense (410 ypg) and are tied for fifth in points per game (29.0).
The Mean Green are a team that relies more on the passing game than the run. Derek Thompson heads up the aerial assault and has been doing so efficiently. He has thrown for 1,020 yards and six touchdowns, completing an impressive 67.6 percent of his pass attempts.
Darnell Smith and Brelan Chancellor complement each other well as the top receiving duo for the Mean Green. Smith is the consistent possession receiver with a team-high 28 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Chancellor is the big-play threat with 268 yards and two scores on 17 receptions. His 15.8 yards per reception average is nearly six yards better than Smith's. Carlos Harris (17 receptions, 186 yards, TD) is also a key piece of the aerial assault.
When the Mean Green do run the ball, Brandin Byrd (46 carries, 186 yards, two TDs) and Reggie Pegram (36 carries, 143 yards, two TDs) are the two top options, though neither is averaging more than 50 yards per game.
Even though North Texas has a positive scoring differential on the season (+2.8), it still hasn't been an overly effective defensive team. The Mean Green are allowing teams to pick up 488.2 yards per game but have been fortunate in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 53 percent of the time.
Zachary Orr is the team's leading tackler with 42 stops on the season. Orr also has one of just five sacks for North Texas. Will Wright has 20 stops and has collected two of the team's five interceptions.
Darkwa's rushing performance against ULM was desperately needed as the Green Wave managed just 70 passing yards in the victory. Darkwa has rushed for 303 yards and six touchdown on the campaign, carrying the ball 69 times. He leads the league in rushing touchdowns but prior to the win over ULM had not eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game this season. Rob Kelley (272 yards, two TDs) also gets a decent amount of work out of the backfield.
Since throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns against South Alabama, Nick Montana has really regressed in the past three weeks. The effort Montana put forth against ULM was the worst of the season, as he completed just 7-of-20 attempts for 65 yards. Montana has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 984 yards and nine touchdowns this season but has suffered 15 sacks and has been intercepted three times.
Failing to get the ball to multiple receivers is another weakness for Montana. Ryan Grant has hauled in 33 receptions for 461 yards and four touchdowns. Justyn Shackleford (13 receptions, 169 yards, three TDs) is the next best option.
Like North Texas, Tulane is outscoring its opponents (+3.2) despite being out-gained each week. The Green Wave are letting up 361.6 yards per game and gaining 338.4. Also like North Texas, the Green Wave has been solid in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 52 percent of their foe's chances.
Sam Scofield (33 tackles) and Darion Monroe (30) have been the most consistent players in terms of tackles, while Tyler Gilbert (2.5 sacks) leads a pass rush that has totaled 11 sacks.
Montana's inconsistencies are likely going to come back to haunt Tulane more often than not. If he can't straighten things out, even a big game from Darkwa won't be enough to overcome a pass-heavy team like North Texas that has proven it can hang with some tough competition.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Texas 31, Tulane 27
10/02 10:38:47 ET