A Deeper Look: North Texas and Central Florida, Week 1
by Strike Point Sports - 08/31/2006
Strike Point Sports will look at two teams, North Texas and Central Florida, each week with extensive analysis and a game prediction. There are great opportunities to make money by following some of the major college programs. That is the point of this weekly column.
2006 North Texas Mean Green Preview
With its dominance of the Sun Belt conference over, North Texas must now rebound from its dead-last finish one year ago. Coming full circle to the other side of the spectrum has given the Mean Green reason to turn things around in 2006.
Miserable in all aspects of football last year, North Texas must rely on junior running back Jamario Thomas to bring the offense out of its funk. Leading the NCAA in rushing as a freshman in 2004, Thomas should again be one of the top runners this fall. Capable of big time yardage, North Texas returns four of its starting offensive linemen to help clear the way for its ground leader. No true signal caller stands out, so don't expect consistent production from the quarterback position. Sophomores Daniel Meager and Matt Phillips are in line for playing time, as well as JUCO transfer Woody Wilson being thrown in the mix.
The Mean Green defense was also bad in '05 but certainly better by comparison to the other side of the ball. The unit's best player, strong safety Aaron Weathers, is the unquestioned leader that should bring together any success the starting eleven may have. He led the defense with 113 tackles and three interceptions and should again produce similar numbers. Several other starters are in line to make impacts for the defense. Free safety Steve Warren, linebacker Maurice Holman and defensive end Jeremiah Chapman are fully capable of boosting the play of this unit.
With a difficult non-conference schedule, particularly on the road, North Texas should figure nicely into the Sun Belt race once the storm clears. Games at Texas, Tulsa and Akron will test this team's resolve and frankly any win in these games should be considered a luxury. Nonetheless, the Mean Green have no excuses to finish anywhere close to last year's 2-9 mark.
With its first two conference games at home against Middle Tennessee State and Florida International, North Texas should find itself 2-0 out of the gate. After that it will be up to them to build on that momentum and not stumble further into Sun Belt play, winding up in the cellar once again. Simply stated, the season will only be considered a success if the Mean Green win the Sun Belt.
Week 1: North Texas at Texas , Sept. 2 - 12:00 p.m.
Chalk it up as one major beat down. Every year this intra-state mega-program destroys the Mean Green. North Texas has already lost by more than 40 even before they leave for Austin this weekend. The defending BCS champs will dictate this game from start to finish, creating havoc in all aspects on the field. It should be considered a success if the Mean Green score any points before halftime; because the Texas bench will be playing at some point for sure.
Prediction: Texas 54, North Texas 7
2006 Central Florida Golden Knights Preview
Coming off its participation in last year's C-USA Championship game against Tulsa and its Hawaii Bowl birth against Nevada, UCF will look to return itself to the top of the conference and finish the job this time around. Granted, the Knights got pounded 44-27 by Tulsa and choked versus Nevada via a botched extra point. However, the season was still a success as the team finished 8-5. Nineteen starters return for Coach George O'Leary's fourth term. No one will be taking this team for granted.
Quarterback and potential C-USA Player of the Year Steven Moffett is back for his senior season along with dynamic sophomore tailback Kevin Smith to bolster an offense that should be very good in the conference. All five starting lineman are back and they should be much better than a year ago. Moffett is coming off a year where he threw for 22 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. As a freshman, Smith carried the rock for a tune of 1,178 yards and nine scores. One of the conference's breakout stars, he should be in line for a slightly better campaign.
With the team's top pass rusher gone (Paul Carrington), senior lineman Chris Welsh will need to launch his game to the next level. However, the best player resides in the secondary and is the team's best cornerback. Joe Burnett. He has the size and physical ability to make plays that not many can in this conference. Only a sophomore, his ball hawking skills will help to play a key role in getting stops through the air.
Three of its first four games are at home, but just one of those is in conference. Only its Sept. 9 match-up at Florida is a known loss. Everything else is wide open. Central Florida has every opportunity to show the conference that 2005 no fluke. In the same regard, C-USA has so many capable teams that UCF may regress back to its usual form. It should be likely the Knights are to remain a winning program for at least one more year, with a bowl berth a pure coin flip at this point in the season.
Week 1: Villanova at Central Florida, Sept. 2 - 6:00 p.m.
Central Florida may not be an NCAA powerhouse, however D-IAA Villanova is a cupcake in comparison. UCF should easily have its way with the Wildcats and open the year with a confidence-boosting win. Having started last year 0-2 on the road, hosting its first game in 2006 along with a victory would be the perfect combination to get back to 2005's midseason form.
Prediction: Central Florida 31 - Villanova 7