Welcome to the eighth entry in a series of weekly articles that pose the big questions facing the University of North Texas.
This week, UNT is coming off a bye that saw them lose their coach, Todd Dodge, and will face a Western Kentucky team that is coming off a 54-21 demolition of University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
The question is pretty simple this week.
Will UNT's defense be able to hold WKU's one-two punch of Kawaun Jakes and Bobby Rainey under 20 points?
The fact that WKU scored at will against UL-L is irrelevant. UL-L looked like the wheels were close to falling off after Kevis Streeter went down early against UNT. They had a fumble and an interception returned for touchdowns against WKU.
UNT has the talent to hold WKU under 20 points, regardless of the fact that QB Jakes and RB Rainey are among the best in the Sun Belt at their positions. Actually pulling it off would be a big accomplishment for UNT.
WKU is a dangerous team because they are set at those two key spots and are well-coached on properly utilizing the strong tandem.
Rainey is the leading rusher in the Sun Belt with 119.7 yards per game on 4.8 yards per carry. Jakes has been inconsistent in his sophomore year, but is fifth in the Sun Belt in passing efficiency with 14 passing TDs and seven interceptions.
Western Kentucky gives up a Sun Belt-worst 5.1 yards per carry. UNT leads the Sun Belt in total rushing yards (1,214), and average time of possession (33:09). Regardless of the scoring, UNT's offense is likely to put their defense in a good position.
Western Kentucky allows an atrocious 65 percent completion rate and has the second worst efficiency rating in the Sun Belt. If Riley Dodge is able to start, it could be another shootout.
UNT's offense should be able to control the clock, and with Zack Olen, they should be able to pile up field goals at the very least.
The question is the UNT defense. Western Kentucky is great in the red zone. In 20 trips to the red zone, they have scored 17 times (85 percent), with 14 coming on touchdowns (70 percent).
UNT has allowed 21 scores in 26 red zone opportunities (81 percent) and 14 touchdowns (54 percent).
If WKU can score touchdowns while UNT is kicking field goals, UNT's odds of winning are slim.
WKU lacks quality depth on defense, but overall, they are well-coached and don't beat themselves.
WKU is tied for second in the Sun Belt with a 0 turnover margin (UNT is second-to-last with a -6 ratio). WKU is second in penalties, surrendering only 46 yards and getting their opponents to commit 62 yards of penalties a game—which is good for +16 yards. UNT, on the other hand, incurs 11 more yards of penalties than their opponents.
Western Kentucky also has home field advantage and thinks they owe UNT a loss.
Western Kentucky does not have the talent yet to be considered an upper echelon team, but they will compete by forcing their opponents to beat them.
At the start of the season, most UNT fans had this game penciled in as a win. Today it should be considered an upset if UNT wins.
Let's see if UNT defensive coordinator Gary DeLoach can deliver.