2010 record: 3-9 (3-5 in Sun Belt Conference)
Coach: Dan McCarney (first year, 0-0)
Series: First meeting
TV: 7 p.m., ESPN3
In game four of the 2011 season, the Indiana Hoosiers will play their final non-conference game and their first true road game when they travel to Denton, Texas to play the North Texas Mean Green. This will be North Texas's first game against a Big Ten opponent. The only previous matchup against a current Big Ten members was a 76-14 loss to Nebraska in Lincoln in 1993.
As for IU, this will be the Hoosiers' sixth trip in program history to the Lone Star State. The most recent visit was a 41-14 win over Rice in Houston in 1988. That is IU's only win in Texas. The Hoosiers lost to Baylor in Waco in 1971, to Texas in Austin in 1965 and 1966, and to SMU in Dallas in 1930. IU's last game against a Texas-based opponent was in the 1991 Copper Bowl against Baylor, which IU won 24-0. That is also IU's most recent bowl win.
North Texas had a nice run under Darrell Dickey early in the last decade, making four consecutive New Orleans Bowl appearances from 2001-2004 (although the 2001 bid came after a 5-6 season, believe it or not). From 2005 to present, however, the Mean Green have won no more than three games per season, and only eight total in the four years of Todd Dodge's tenure at UNT, which ended with his firing last season. Of Dodge's eight wins, four were against Division I neophyte Western Kentucky. Former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney will take the reins in Denton this season (if you are keeping track, that means that IU's FBS non-conference opponents are led by two first-year coaches and a second year coach). McCarney did a fantastic job at Iowa State, leading the Cyclones to five bowl appearances in six years from 2000-2005, but was fired after going 4-8 in 2006. Sound familiar, IU fans? At least we let Bill Mallory have two bad seasons before axing him. On the other hand, McCarney isn't an expert on quick turnarounds. He didn't produce a winning season at ISU until his sixth season, and North Texas appears to be in a big hole.
UNT has seen some significant attrition. Last year's starting quarterback, Riley Dodge, son of fired coach Todd Dodge, has transferred. Nathan Tune, who began last season as the starting QB, is gone to graduation. According to the Dallas Morning News, Derek Thompson, who completed 11 of 18 passes as a freshman, won the starting job in spring practice. Unfortunately, most of Thompson's receiving targets will be as green as he is. Recently, leading receiver from 2010 Darius Carey was dismissed from the team, leaving Tyler Stradford, who caught 24 passes last season, as the only returning receiver with meaningful experience. At running back, the story is much happier. Lance Dunbar ran for 1467 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010, and also is the Mean Green's leading returning receiver with 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dunbar hasn't been intimidated by competition from major conferences: last season, he ran for 116 yards and had 62 receiving yards against Clemson. In the final game of the season, he ran for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns against Kansas State. He broke the 200 yard barrier against Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee as well. Obviously, Dunbar will be the centerpiece of UNT's offense. Despite the excellent running game, UNT was below average on both offense and defense last year, ranking #64 in total offense and #77 in total defense. According to Phil Steele the Mean Green return 6 defensive starters, including leading sacker DE Brandon Akpunku, and linebacker Jeremy Phillips, the team's second-leading tackler.
This will be an interesting game. At least on paper, Dunbar is the most fearsome player that IU will face before entering Big Ten play. The Mean Green will be opening a new stadium in 2011, and IU will be the second visiting team to play there. Still, with UNT in the first year of a major rebuilding project this is a game that the Hoosiers should be able to win.