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College football betting preview: Conference USA


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NORTH TEXAS

In seven seasons at North Texas, coach Seth Littrell has been to five bowl games. The 2020 season deserves an asterisk because the Mean Green were only 4-5 in the regular season, but the dudes from Denton have been pretty consistent on Littrell’s watch. Last season was every bit of a .500 campaign before the loss to Appalachian State in the Frisco Classic, as UNT scored and allowed 27.5 points per game and finished even in turnover margin. Which way will the pendulum swing in 2022?

Offense

The team seemed more comfortable with Austin Aune as the starting quarterback than with Jace Ruder, but now Arizona transfer Grant Gunnell also has his hat in the ring. Aune led the five-game winning streak late in the year that took the Mean Green from 1-6 to 6-6 after knocking off No. 15 UTSA in the finale. The Roadrunners rested a bunch of players in advance of the Conference USA title game. Even though Littrell cut his teeth at Texas Tech in the mid-2000s under Mike Leach, this is a run-first (and run-second and run-third) offense. North Texas ran the eighth-most plays last season with 1,033 and ran 639 times. Only the three triple-option teams, Northern Illinois and Kent State ran more often. Star running back DeAndre Torrey ran for 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns before exhausting his eligibility. Sophomore Oscar Adaway was supposed to be the starting back but tore his ACL right before the season. He’ll be the feature back now. The Mean Green rushed for 4.7 yards per carry, even though opposing defenses knew what was coming. Four starters are back on the line and the QBs are always mobile.

Defense

This was a slightly below-average defense by yards per play, even though they allowed fewer than 400 yards per game. It was a massive upgrade under defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, as the Mean Green allowed 522 yards and 6.9 yards per play in 2020. North Texas gave up almost 43 points per game during that weird COVID season, which is a big outlier, but the statistical improvements under Bennett are notable. He only has five starters back on this year’s defense, which allowed 5.7 yards per play and 4.0 yards per carry. The back seven only managed six picks, but North Texas recovered 12 of 23 opponent fumbles. Only six teams forced more fumbles. The fumble recoveries offset 14 fumbles lost by the offense, which is another example of why this was almost a perfectly symmetrical .500 team.

Outlook

More of the same seems likely for the Mean Green. They do get two bye weeks by playing in Week 0 against UTEP before facing SMU, Texas Southern, UNLV and Memphis in nonconference play. UNT draws the four best teams in this conference (UTEP, UTSA, WKU, UAB), so that puts a damper on its chances of contending in C-USA. The win total of 6.5 makes sense, as this could be a perfectly mediocre team again. However, with that schedule, my projection is actually for 5.79 wins, so I’d look more toward the Under.

Pick: Under 6.5 (-120)

Read more:  https://www.vsin.com/college-football-betting-preview-conference-usa/

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