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UNT chasing C-USA West title today

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas coach Seth Littrell and his players are not about to get picky about how they reach their milestone moments in what has been a second straight season full of them.

But there is something special about the opportunity that will come their way Saturday when they host UTEP.

A win would give the Mean Green the Conference USA West Division title in their homecoming game on a day when the school is honoring Darrell Dickey. The UNT Athletic Hall of Famer was the last coach to lead the Mean Green to consecutive bowl games during a run of four straight New Orleans Bowl appearances from 2001-04.

"I will take it anywhere," Littrell said of a title-clinching win. "It's special anytime you can win and have a chance to play for a championship, but to have a chance to do it here in front of all the people who support you is big. They will have a chance to be a part of it."

UNT (6-3, 5-1 C-USA) enters is game against UTEP on a roll after winning five of its last six games. That surge left the Mean Green needing just one win in their final two C-USA games to secure a spot in the league's title game Dec. 2.

Every win UNT picks up in league play also could be a factor in where the title game is played. The division winner with the best record in league play will host. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head play.

Florida Atlantic is atop the East Division at 5-0, handed UNT its only loss in league play and controls its destiny in the race to host the title game.

While the race to host the C-USA title game is out of UNT's control, several of its other goals are in sight. The Mean Green are focused on those milestones.

"One of our goals is to win the West," UNT quarterback Mason Fine said. "We are trying to accomplish the mission, which is to win the West, go unbeaten at home and win our bowl game."

UNT is 4-0 at home heading into its game against UTEP (0-9, 0-5). The Mean Green are set to host Army in their final home game Nov. 18.

The setup for Saturday's game seems perfect for UNT, which knows from experience to not get too far ahead of itself heading into a game against the Miners.

That is exactly what happened last season.

UNT needed a win against UTEP in its regular-season finale to become bowl-eligible at 6-6 but was hammered by the Miners 52-24.

The Mean Green played in a bowl game, thanks to an exemption based on their score on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate report, but haven't forgotten that loss. The Miners ran over UNT behind 301 rushing yards from Aaron Jones, who now is playing for the Green Bay Packers.

The situation is similar this season. UNT has a lot on the line, while UTEP is playing for nothing more than pride.

The Miners haven't won a game all season and are trying to break though behind coach Mike Price, who took over in an interim capacity after Sean Kugler stepped down earlier this season. Price was the head coach at Washington State and UTEP earlier in his career.

UTEP nearly knocked off Western Kentucky in Price's first game back but missed three field goals in a 15-14 loss. The Miners haven't threatened to break through since.

"It's definitely exciting," UNT linebacker Brandon Garner said of the opportunity to clinch the West Division title. "We have to stay locked in, though, because UTEP is coming in here trying to spoil our season."

UNT has reached several of its goals but is aiming for others.

"We are happy to be back at Apogee [Stadium] and are motivated to accomplish our mission to be undefeated at home this season," Littrell said. "Pursing our mission is what drives this team. We love the position we are in but understand that we still have unfinished business."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

North Texas Gameday

UTEP AT UNT

When: 4 p.m.

Where: Apogee Stadium

Records: UNT 6-3, 5-1 C-USA;

UTEP 0-9, 0-5 C-USA

Last meeting: UTEP 52, UNT 24 (2016)

Series: UNT leads 14-8-3

Last week: North Texas 24, Louisiana Tech 23; Middle Tennessee 30, UTEP 3

Streaming: ESPN3

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1