By Paul Tenorio | Orlando Sentinel
10:57 PM EDT, May 19, 2013
Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 98: North Texas
Coach: Dan McCarney (9-15, entering third season; 65-100 overall)
2012 record: 4-8 (3-5 Sun Belt, tied for sixth)
Look back: North Texas took a slight step back in its win-loss record during the 2012 season, coach Dan McCarney's second season leading the program. The Mean Green opened the season with a loss at LSU and a win over Texas Southern. The team hung around in close losses to nationally ranked Kansas State and Troy. However, North Texas stumbled through Sun Belt play, unable to consistently find a way to the end zone. North Texas scored 21 points or fewer in eight of 12 games during the 2012 season, including low point tallies during losses to Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Offensive starters lost: 3
Defensive starters returning: 8
Defensive starters lost: 3
Key losses: OL Aaron Fortenberry, WR Chris Bynes, WR Ivan Delgado, TE Andrew Power, DL Tevinn Cantly, P Will Atterberry
Top returnees: LB Zach Orr, DB Zac Whitfield, OL Cyril Lemon, OL Mason Y'Barbo, RB Brandin Byrd, RB Antoinne Jimmerson, QB Derek Thompson, WR Darnell Smith, DL Brandon McCoy
Strengths: The Mean Green averaged 173 yards per game on the ground in 2012 and returns its top two rushers: RB Brandin Byrd (860 yards, 4 TD) and RB Antoinne Jimmerson (544 yards, 5 TD). The team also brings back the bulk of its offensive line — though first-team All-Sun Belt OL Aaron Fortenberry is gone. North Texas gave up just six sacks last season, tops in the country. The defense should be improved under second-year coordinator John Skladany, who previously was the defensive coordinator at UCF, Houston and Iowa State. North Texas will look to be more stout against the run after giving up more than 160 yards a game. The Mean Green return their leading tackler in LB Zach Orr (108 tackles).
Weaknesses: The quarterback position is still unsettled for North Texas, with two-year starter Derek Thompson being pushed by sophomore Andrew McNulty. That competition is expected to continue throughout the preseason. Thompson threw for 2,629 yards last season but had 14 interceptions to go along with his 14 touchdowns. The Mean Green was also subpar in special teams, ranking among the nation's worst in both punt and kick return averages. They also averaged just 20.9 points per game in 2012, ranked 103rd in the country.
Outlook: In its first season in Conference USA, North Texas should be improved on both sides of the ball. A more forgiving nonconference schedule helps an offense that could be adapting to a change under center. With a proven running game returning, the Mean Green should be able to sustain drives and put more points on the board in 2013. One of North Texas' challenges will be improving production up front defensively, where plenty of question marks remain. North Texas hopes to resolve its weaknesses and aim for its first season at .500 or better since 2004.
Aug. 31 Idaho
Sept. 7 at Ohio
Sept. 14 Ball State
Sept. 21 at Georgia
Oct. 5 at Tulane
Oct. 12 Middle Tennessee State
Oct. 19 at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 26 at Southern Miss
Oct. 31 Rice
Nov. 9 UTEP
Nov. 23 Texas-San Antonio
Nov. 30 at Tulsa
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