5. North Texas
After winning 18 games from 2017-18, the Mean Green have slipped to an 8-14 record over the last two years. Scoring points won’t be a problem for coach Seth Littrell’s team in ’21. However, the defense has to show marked improvement to get back to a bowl.
Previewing the Offense
Strength: The Mean Green led Conference USA in scoring (34.4 ppg), yards per play (6.6), and most gains of 40-plus yards (19) last season. Littrell has to sort out an intriguing quarterback battle between Austin Aune and former North Carolina signal-caller Jace Ruder, but this unit should be explosive once again. DeAndre Torrey and Oscar Adaway III lead a strong backfield, and four starters return from one of the top lines in the league. A healthy Jyaire Shorter at receiver will help replace the production left behind by Jaelon Darden.
Concern: Can Aune or Ruder claim the job and play with enough consistency to keep the offense on track all year? Shorter’s return is huge, but North Texas needs a couple of other playmakers to emerge at receiver. The offense has to do a better job at managing turnovers after losing 15 in 2020.
Incoming Transfers: QB Jace Ruder; WR Tommy Bush
Previewing the Defense
Strength: Littrell’s hire of veteran coordinator Phil Bennett was a strong move to get a struggling defense pointed in the right direction. Tackle Dion Novil and linebackers Tyreke Davis and KD Davis are three key players among nine returning defensive starters for North Texas in 2021.
Concern: This unit allowed a whopping 42.8 points a game and surrendered 6.94 yards per play last season. Even with a new play-caller and help through the transfer portal, major improvement might be a year away.
Incoming Transfers: DB Logan Wilson; DB John Davis; DB TyRae Thornton; DL Kameron Hill; LB Carson Kropp; CB Ridge Texada; LB Sean-Thomas Faulkner; DL Enoch Jackson; DB Greg Francis
read more: https://athlonsports.com/college-football/conference-usa-football-2021-predictions
SMU is 17-6 over the last two years, but if coach Sonny Dykes’ team wants to take the next step and contend for the conference title, there’s one glaring question mark to address this offseason. The Mustangs aren’t lacking for skill talent at running back or receiver, but uncertainty remains under center after the departure of Shane Buechele. Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai and freshman Preston Stone are set to compete for the job and are crucial to the overall success of SMU’s 2021 season. The Mustangs gave up 30.9 points a contest last year, but seven returning starters under new play-caller Jim Leavitt should be enough to generate improvement on defense.
read more: https://athlonsports.com/college-football/smu-football-mustangs-prediction-preview-2021
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