The unseasonably cool temperatures and abundant rainfall we’ve experienced this week already had us thinking of fall, and then we saw the announcement that the Mean Green was picked to win the Conference USA West Division in a preseason poll of coaches.
That cinched it. We’re ready to head out to Apogee Stadium to set up for a tailgate party. Where did we put our green gear?
The last time the University of North Texas was in a situation like this one, some of its senior class members were in the seventh grade.
It’s great news for the team and coaches, students and fans, and the perfect follow-up to UNT’s 9-4 finish last season and decisive win over the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Talk about building momentum — UNT appears to be poised for the success that many believed it would find when the school jumped from the Sun Belt Conference to what is considered a higher-level league in C-USA.
UNT officials said joining C-USA, where UNT would be one of four Texas schools, would increase the exposure it would receive across the state, spark fan interest and help its programs improve.
On July 1, UNT hit the one-year mark from the day that switch became official, and now UNT’s reputation among the coaches in Conference USA has made the Mean Green a favorite once again.
UNT received 66 points in the poll, edging out Rice University and the University of Texas at San Antonio, which finished with 65 and 62 points, respectively.
The vote of confidence comes with serious considerations, UNT coach Dan McCarney pointed out.
“There is a real obligation and responsibility with the guys on this team to live up to what we’ve built, the standards that we have set and the success that we just had,” McCarney said.
Maintaining the momentum built last season could be a challenge for UNT, which lost several key players from a team that earned just the third bowl win in program history. UNT returns only nine starters, one of the lowest totals among Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Despite these hits, UNT will head into its Aug. 30 season opener at the University of Texas as the favorite in C-USA’s West Division, largely because of strengths in key areas including the offensive line. The Mean Green returns four of its five starters, including starting guards Cyril Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo.
Lemon and Y’Barbo were named to the preseason All-C-USA team. Each was named to the Lombardi Award watch list on Monday.
It’s clear that the coming season will test the team’s character, but we believe the Mean Green will live up to the challenge and fulfill the potential that a lot of people saw last season.
As coach McCarney told us, the bowl victory had a lot of people seeing green.
“That game made a lasting impression with people that this program may be on the rise,” he said.
We believe the excitement is just beginning for the Mean Green, and we can’t wait for the new season to start.
Bring on fall.