Tuscaloosa, AL – The second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are 0 this weekend when the North conference clash.
A member of the Sun Belt Conference, North Texas began the season with an ugly league loss to FIU by a 41-16 final. The Mean Green hoped for a much better effort last week, but they fell to Houston, 48-23, in non-league action.
"I thought we played with great emotion in the first half and we were feeding off the energy from that great crowd," said North Texas head coach Dan McCarney. "Unfortunately it is a four-quarter game and we didn't maintain that energy in the second half."
As for Alabama, it has posted a pair of double-digit, non-conference victories through the first two weeks of this season. After besting Kent State by a 48-7 margin in the opener, the Tide handled Penn State on the road last weekend by a 27-11 final.
"Penn State is a much better team than they were a year ago in my opinion," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban, always one to build up the opponent. "They are very good up front on defense, they really hold on defense."
Alabama has won all three previous meetings with North Texas, none of which have been close.
North Texas posted a modest total of 290 yards against Houston last weekend. Sure, the Mean Green did score three offensive touchdowns, including two rushing scores, but the club committed three turnovers, so it is hard to praise the offense for the effort. Derek Thompson completed 21-of-33 passes for 172 yards and one TD with one interception. As for Lance Dunbar, who paced the club with five catches, he ran for 62 yards and a score.
The Mean Green figured to have their hands full with the explosive Houston offense, and that was indeed the case. North Texas was victimized for 690 total yards, a staggering figure, and the Cougars scored six offensive touchdowns, five of which came through the air.
"Defensively we did some good things in the first half but we still allowed too many big plays," said McCarney. "I thought we showed some improvement from last week but we still have a long way to go."
Averaging only 19.5 ppg and 295.5 total ypg through two outings, there is clearly room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball for McCarney's team. The same can be said for the defense, which is yielding 44.5 ppg and 545.5 total ypg. Not much was expected of the Mean Green heading into the campaign, and the club has done little to generate confidence among its frustrated fans.
Switching focus to Alabama, it was far from spectacular on the offensive side of the ball against Penn State, but the Tide made enough plays to win the game. They scored three touchdowns, two of which came on runs by tailback Trent Richardson. A Heisman hopeful, Richardson ran for 111 yards on 26 carries, proving to be a workhorse. As for quarterback A.J. McCarron, a first- year starter, he connected on 19-of-31 passes for 163 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
"The whole offense did a great job of not allowing turnovers and the defense got us turnovers," said McCarron after the win. "So that's the way we have to play. If we keep playing like that, it's going to be a special team."
Give the Alabama defense plenty of credit for a stellar effort against Penn State, as the unit managed to limit the Nittany Lions to 251 total yards and one touchdown. The Tide permitted a mere 3.6 yards per rushing attempt, but far more impressive is the fact that the club permitted just 12-of-39 passes attempts to connect.
Thus far, 'Bama is averaging 37.5 ppg and 420.5 ppg, and the offense has been able to establish solid balance. McCarron has passed for 389 yards and two touchdowns, and he obviously played much better last week after tossing a pair of interceptions in the opener. For now, it appears that Phillip Sims will serve as the backup, as he didn't attempt a single pass against Penn State after finishing with 14 pass attempts (and two interceptions) against Kent State. Richardson is only averaging 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, but he does have five rushing scores.
Opponents are averaging a modest 9.0 ppg and 170.5 total ypg against the Alabama defense, widely considered one of the finest units in all of college football. The Tide are yielding only 49.0 ypg on the ground at a clip of 1.8 yards per rushing attempt. As for the pass defense, a mere 32-of-86 attempts have been completed.