This is both North Texas and FAU’s first ever in the C-USA title game. Since joining the conference in 2013, both teams have under a .500 record overall. UNT started off going 9-4 back in 2013 including a 6-2 conference record, then it went down hill with a 4-8 record in 2014 and a conference worst 1-11 in 2015.
Saturday’s championship game will be a bit different for FAU than the first meeting. UNT starting running back Jeffrey Wilson has been ruled out of the title game after suffering an foot injury two weeks ago against Army.
FAU has to face his replacement, Nic Smith, who saw some action against FAU the first time but can make his mark this game.
Another player who is questionable for UNT is receiver Jalen Guyton. He left the Army game with a concussion, but if he plays on Saturday Guyton will need t account for him.
FAU blew out North Texas 69-38 in the first meeting, but UNT is 5-0 since that loss.
Lane Kiffin doesn’t recall ever playing a team twice in a season. Does a second meeting make it easier to prepare?
“The only thing that makes it easier is you have a head start,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “(Sunday), when you get in here, you’re not spending the whole day trying to figure (North Texas) out because you do have scouting reports from playing them before. Now you’ve got to see over the last five games, have they changed? They’ve been playing great since our game. They’ve won every game. There’s a reason they are a championship team.”
The File: FAU(9-3, 8-0) vs. UNT (9-3, 7-1)
The Series: FAU leads the series 7-4
Last Meeting: FAU 69 UNT 38 (Oct. 21, 2017)
NORTH TEXAS OFFENSE
Even without Guyton and Wilson, the Mean Green offense still runs the same spread formation. The Mean Green boast the second-best offense in Conference USA, behind only FAU. If the Mean Green get out to an early start look for them to give Smith the ball a bunch. If FAU jumps out early they will leave the ball in Fine’s hand.
Offensive Players to Watch
- 6 Mason Fine, QB – The starting quarterback for the Mean Green struggled against FAU last time they played. He threw two interceptions vs. FAU and had 283 yards passing with two scores. Besides that game he has had a solid year, throwing for 3,393 yards , 27 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Against Army two weeks ago he threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns.
- 9 Jalen Guyton, WR – Mason Fine’s favorite target this season is questionable for this game but is a player the Owls need to account for. FAU did that in the first meeting, holding C-USA’s leading receiver at the time catchless. Guyton left that game with an apparent injury, finishing the game on the sidelines. He left the Army game with a concussion and missed last week but is now listed as questionable for FAU this week. For the season Guyton has 47 receptions for 758 yards and nine touchdowns.
- 21 Nic Smith, RB – Replaces the dominant Jeffery Wilson as the Mean Green’s primary ball carrier. On the year Smith has 118 rushes for 615 yards and six touchdowns. In the previous meeting against FAU, he had eight rushes for 25 yards and no touchdowns. As the starter in last week’s win over Rice, he ran for 178 yards and a touchdown.
NORTH TEXAS DEFENSE
North Texas runs a 3-4 defense but last time they played FAU, they had a hard time stopping the Owls. Singletary was able to rush for three touchdowns and Driskel threw for a season high 357 yards and two scores. The UNT defense ranks No. 84 in the nation in total defense giving up 414 yards per game. Last time they played, FAU put up 804 total yards against them.
Defensive Players to Watch
- 22 E.J. Ejiya, LB – The leading tackler for the Mean Green with 93 total tackles, Ejiya recorded 12 tackles against FAU in the first meeting. He is also going to be one of the main guys trying to stop Singletary, and has eight and a half tackles for a loss.
- 6 Kishawn McClain, S – The second leading tackler for the Mean Green, McClain had 11 tackles in the first meeting with FAU. He also is second on team in tackles with 84 and interceptions with one.
- 37 Brandon Garner, LB – Another run stopper for the Mean Green, last game Garner had five tackles. On the season, he has two sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. He can also defend the pass as he has three pass deflections and three pass breakups.