North Texas at Louisiana Tech
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 9, Joe Aillet Stadium, Ruston, La., 4 p.m. EST.
Looking to remain the only unbeaten team in league play in Conference USA, Louisiana Tech also attempts to push its winning streak to eight games Saturday when it hosts division rival North Texas.
Mean Green try to take step closer to fourth straight bowl appearanceNorth Texas (4-5, 3-2 C-USA West) needs two wins in its final three games to be bowl eligible and potentially make a fourth straight bowl appearance. The Mean Green picked up a key and needed a win in that quest last Saturday with a 52-26 rout of UTEP.
Mason Fine arguably won the weekend in all of college football with his in-game and post-game performance. Fine threw a career-high seven touchdown passes and finished with 332 yards while completing 24 of 39 passes, then became a viral sensation for doing his post-game press conference in a dinosaur costume.
“I was proud of him,” coach Seth Littrell told the Denton Record-Chronicle about Fine showing a lighter side. “College football is a year-round job and is a grind. If you don’t enjoy it and have some laughs, it can be even more of a grind. It showed his personality. He likes to have fun.”
Fine clearly does not have a short arm as he also surpassed 12,000 passing yards in last weekend's victory. He is seventh in the nation with 2,609 yards and tied for third with 27 TD passes. Fine is four scoring tosses shy of matching his single-season career-high of 31 set last season and nine short of becoming the 26th player in FBS history with 100.
Tre Siggers, who leads North Texas with 713 rushing yards, could be more of a workhorse in this game with DeAndre Torrey doubtful. The Mean Green have been hit hard by injuries this season, losing starting wide receiver Rico Bussey and left tackle D'Andre Plantin earlier in the campaign.
The Mean Green's defense leaves plenty to be desired. They rank 105th in scoring defense at 32.4 points per game and have held only one opponent under 23 points. North Texas is yielding 416.8 yards per game, including 300.7 per contest through the air.
Bulldogs continue to roll up points and winsLouisiana Tech (7-1, 4-0 West) is assured of an opportunity to extend its bowl winning streak to six games at some point next month or in January, but there is another big prize in the offering for Skip Holtz's team.
The Bulldogs have never recorded a 10-win season in school history from the inception of the program in 1975 and its rebirth in 1988. They have won nine games on six occasions, most recently in 2016, and are looking to pick up where they left off following their bye week.
"I don't know that I've ever had a team this healthy eight weeks into the season," Holtz said at his media availability Monday. "It speaks tremendous volumes for what this team did in the summer and fall camp and the way they worked, prepared and conditioned for this year. This open date we handled very similarly to the first one.
"We wanted to develop some depth and get some necessary rest and recovery for those guys who are playing a major role for us. We wanted to get ahead for what we're doing as a coaching staff as far as game-planning and self-scouting. I thought it was a very productive week as far as that's concerned."
Louisiana Tech is 22nd in the nation in total offense with 471.3 yards per game 23rd in scoring (36.4 ppg). The Bulldogs have been held under 400 yards by only one FBS opponent and rolled up 490 in defeating UTEP 42-21 on Oct. 26.
J'Mar Smith completed 29 of 35 passes for a season-high 338 yards while matching a season best with three touchdowns in his third 300-yard game of 2019. The senior has completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,220 yards and 13 TDs and enters this contest needing 234 yards to reach 9,000 and four scoring tosses to reach 50 for his career.
QB Spotlight WK8⬇️— QB Spotlight (@QBspotlight) October 22, 2019
*J’Mar Smith (La Tech)
*14/21,325yds passing,2tot TDs, 1int in their W vs Southern Miss
*Love how Smith is playing this year
*Great read by Smith to keep it here & hits his WR in stride over middle of field⬇️@LaTechReport @BleedTechBlue pic.twitter.com/YPd9C4XLNe
The Bulldogs have averaged 44.3 points and 530 yards in going 4-0 at home this season, but that means little to Holtz, who is expecting a challenge from the Mean Green given the last two meetings have been decided by a combined three points.
"This is a game that traditionally both teams have had a tremendous amount of respect for each other," Holtz said. "This game has come down to a field goal two years in a row – with them winning in our place two years ago and us being fortunate in coming away with a win over there last year. This is a game that creates a lot of energy and excitement, just when you say North Texas and Louisiana Tech because of the history, the rivalry and the competitive nature of these games when these two teams play."
Smith threw for 230 yards and a pair of scores in last year's 29-27 win, with Louisiana Tech's defense preserving the win by stopping North Texas on a 2-point conversion with 1:57 to play.
North Texas is:
- 0-7 ATS in its last seven games following a straight up win.
- 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games vs. Conference USA teams.
- 3-12 ATS in its last 15 games.
Louisiana Tech is:
- 5-1 ATS in its last six games.
- 6-1 ATS in its last seven games following a straight up win.
- 4-1 ATS in its last five games vs. North Texas.