North Texas hosted all three of its new Texas rivals in its first season in Conference USA.
The pendulum will swing in the opposite direction in UNT’s second year in the league, when the Mean Green will face Rice, UTEP and Texas-San Antonio on the road.
That series of road games was one of the highlights of what UNT learned about its upcoming season Monday, when C-USA released its league schedule and the division alignments for 2014.
UNT will join Louisiana Tech, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UTEP and UTSA in C-USA’s West Division, while Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UAB and Western Kentucky will make up the East Division.
UNT will host FAU and FIU and travel to UAB in its crossover games against the East.
The Mean Green finished 9-4 in its first season in the league and capped the year with a 36-14 win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in front of a crowd of 38,380. UNT’s performance represented a breakthrough for the program, which had not played in a bowl game since 2004 and had not won one since 2002.
The Mean Green’s quest to build on that performance will begin at Texas on Aug. 30 before UNT returns to Apogee Stadium to host regional rival SMU on Sept. 6.
UNT’s schedule also includes a trip to Indiana on Oct. 4.
“This is a very exciting schedule that’s going to be very difficult from start to finish,” UNT coach Dan McCarney said in a statement. “We have great momentum coming off the Heart of Dallas Bowl victory, and the incredible turnout of fans is something we can’t wait to see come out for the 2014 season starting with the home opener against SMU. It will be a big challenge to start at Texas, then go to a Big Ten school in Indiana, but it will get us ready for a Conference USA schedule that’s loaded with really good teams.”
UNT’s early-season slate is a repeat of the 2006 season, when the Mean Green last played Texas. UNT fell 56-7 in Austin to the Longhorns, who have won all nine games in the series.
UNT turned around the next week and beat SMU 24-6 in one of the Mean Green’s landmark nonconference wins of the last 10 years. The Mustangs lead the series 28-4-1 and beat the Mean Green in the teams’ last meeting in 2007.
UNT will open C-USA play at home against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 13 before facing Nicholls State in a nonconference home game Sept. 20.
UNT closes out its nonconference slate at Indiana. The Mean Green beat the Hoosiers 24-21 in Denton in 2011 for the first win of the McCarney and Apogee Stadium eras.
The Mean Green then will alternate home and away games in C-USA play for the remainder of its schedule beginning with a game at UAB on Oct. 11.
UNT’s final six games are: vs. Southern Miss (Oct. 18), at Rice (Oct. 25), vs. FAU (Nov. 8), at UTEP (Nov. 15), vs. FIU (Nov. 22) and at UTSA (Nov. 29).
Rice is C-USA’s defending West Division champion and beat Marshall in the league’s title game last season, when the Owls finished 10-4.
Rice finished 7-1 in league play with its lone loss coming 28-16 at UNT, on a night the Mean Green posted an eight-play goal line stand that was one of the highlights of the season.
UNT lost several of the key players who helped make that stand and a breakout season possible, including starting quarterback Derek Thompson, linebacker Zach Orr and wide receiver Brelan Chancellor.
Of UNT’s 22 starters in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, 12 were seniors.
North Texas schedule
The following is the North Texas football team’s 2014 schedule. Times have yet to be annouced.
Louisiana Tech *
at UAB *
Southern Mississippi *
Florida Atlantic *
at Texas-San Antonio
* C-USA game
The following are Conference USA’s divisions for 2014:
West Division — North Texas, Louisiana Tech, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UTEP and Texas-San Antonio
East Division — Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UAB, Western Kentucky