North Texas-Alabama: UNT without QB RIley Dodge to face #4 Alabama
This game will be ugly.
The score will probably be ugly too although UNT will probably add a late TD or two to make it less ugly.
Still the components are there for this game to be similar to the Georgia/Hawaii Sugar Bowl of a few seasons back.
The real question to UNT fans will be the Mean Green's injury situation coming out of it. It is actually in some ways a stroke of luck that semi-fragile starting QB Riley Dodge will be out of this game so Alabama's wave after wave of defensive talent doesn't knock him out for the season.
The general consensus on the Alabama sideline and among the Crimson Tide fanbase is that the team was on cruise control vs. FIU. They do not recognize how good FIU actually is. The Alabama coaching staff will be driving the entire team hard to play better, hit harder, and score more this week.
It's just an ugly situation for UNT, who had hoped to be the school Alabama overlooked a little and hit with its "B" game.
Alabama is frankly good at everything and great defensively against the run. UNT will be made one dimensional in this game and then the Tide will start teeing off on backup QB Nathan Tune.
UNT will try to compensate with shorter quicker routes, but then Alabama's defensive backs will shorten their cushions and start jumping Tune's passes. That is the kind of scenario that leads to interceptions returned for TDs. Expect to see two interceptions returned for TDs this week by the third quarter.
Now all that said, I would not be surprised to see a pretty decent game from the skinny Tune for the first three quarters—until Alabama's defensive line knocks him out. Tune is a game competitor with a solid arm who will take shots down the field, and the UNT offense really improves in the red zone when he is running the show. Tune did lead his high school team to an undefeated season and a Texas state title. He plays with some spine. The team shows some hunger in the red zone in games and in practice when he is running the show.
That said with UNT's starting left tackle Victor Gill out, I fully expect to see mobile third string QB Chase Baine finish the game for UNT. He is a slightly bigger Riley Dodge clone.
As a UNT fan I am eager to see which WRs step up vs. Alabama. UNT has a number of talented WRs but all of them are raw and undeveloped. Alabama is likely to jump all over UNT's big play threat Jamaal Jackson and UNT's leading receiver Mike Outlaw. This game could be a coming out game that moves a guy like Darius Carey or BJ Lewis way up in the coaches' estimation if they prove to be pretty good this week.
The biggest injury concern I can see for UNT is the possible loss of RB Cam Montgomery. Montgomery is a tall upright runner at RB who fights hard for additional yardage. That is not a good recipe against a team as talented and deep defensively as Alabama.
Montgomery averages a full two yards more per carry than his backup Lance Dunbar.
If Alabama stands up Montgomery and some safety blows up the exposed runner, I could easily see UNT losing Montgomery to a few broken ribs or a broken collarbone for most of the season. That would likely put a fork in UNT's ability to get into a bowl game.
Additionally, this is the kind of game where Montgomery might fumble as he will be struggling for additional yards against bigger and stronger competition than he normally faces.
I would seriously consider having a quick hook on Montgomery if the game looks out of control early. This would be a great game to try to rebuild the confidence of Micah Mosley.
Mosley is not currently in UNT's running rotation, having only one carry in the first two games. Mosley is a much thicker back, and is far more likely to both safely survive the pounding, protect the ball, and break tackles than Montgomery, Dunbar, or third string RB Jeremi Mathis. (Montgomery, Dunbar, and Mathis split almost all of the carries so far this season. Dunbar and Mathis are very talented underclassmen, but they lack feature back size and strength at this point in their careers. They have very good running instincts but appear to lack top game speed as well. I don't expect either to be hugely effective vs. Alabama. Currently they are competent spot players against lesser competition giving Montgomery a rest.)
As this is likely a throw-away game, why not give Mosley 15 carries and see if he can rediscover the hard running form that made him so dangerous in high school and his freshman year at UNT? Mosley in past years has shown to be a different kind of runner than UNT's other backs. If they can give him enough carries to rebuild his confidence, that could yield a huge payoff later on in the season giving UNT another starting caliber weapon out of the backfield.
Defensively this game might be worth watching from a UNT perspective. Alabama starting QB Greg McElroy played for UNT coach Todd Dodge in High School, and Dodge knows his tendencies. Combine that with a pretty good and deep UNT defense and a top defensive coordinator in Garry DeLoach and you might see this defensive game plan being the model for other SEC schools to imitate against Alabama—even if other factors don't allow UNT to hang around on the scoreboard.
UNT has shown to be a little weak against the run at the end spots this year. It is entirely likely that Alabama illustrates that repeatedly. Also with DT Kelvin Jackson out, UNT might be a little more vulnerable to runs up the middle than they have been in previous games.
All and all it looks like a bad matchup for UNT. Here is hoping their injury number from this game is less than three, and Montgomery is not among them.
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