IT's North Texas game picks

IT's Bill Frisbie, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross give you their picks, and the reasoning behind those picks, in Saturday's game between Texas and North Texas.

IT's Picks:

Frisbie -- Are ya' ready for some football? By the time the sun sets on Labor Day, no less than 26 NCAA games will have been waged in a five-day pigskin orgy -- and it still won't be enough. But the one we care about kicks off at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at sold-out Royal-Memorial Stadium. For the third consecutive year, Texas opens against a Sun Belt team. In this case, the defending conference champ University of North Texas brings 20 returning starters to Austin looking for its first win in the six-games series. As mentioned in the North Texas preview, this is actually a closely-played series with Texas winning by an average of just more than 11 points. A couple of games actually came down to the wire. And this will be the most experienced North Texas team to visit Austin. If the ‘Horns were to prevail by 21 Saturday, it would represent the biggest route in the series history that began in 1976. But the difference between this Texas team and previous ones is that the 2002 Longhorns have more offensive firepower than any squad to have graced the Forty Acres in the past 30 years. Still, I don't look for this to a be a track meet -- at least not in the early going. (This game will not remind you of the Kansas game last year, nor the Stanford game in 1999). Barring a rash of Mean Green turnovers, the visitors would be within striking distance at halftime if they were playing an average defense. (The guys who returned from last season's top ranked UT defensive unit still feel like they have something to prove). Texas' overall depth of talent will separate the two squads by the early-third quarter. I fully except two Texas special teams touchdowns in this one. North Texas' special teams have been erratic in the preseason and they will start a punter and a kicker who has never set foot on the playing field in a NCAA game. The only question is which No. 3 for the Orange and White gets the special teams' score: CB Nathan Vasher on a punt return or RB Selvin Young on a kick-off return. And also look for a blocked punt courtesy of either Rod Babers or Tony Jeffery. The most important thing about this one is to get out of the game free of serious injury, to provide quality snaps for younger guys like QB Chance Mock, DE Bryan Pickryl and certainly the still wet-behind-the-ears second-team linebackers. It also gives Texas a game under its belt before venturing to North Carolina to face a Tar Heel team that will already have played twice, and looking to avenge not only last year's 30-point loss in Austin but motivated by head coach Mack Brown's first visit to Chapel Hill since abruptly leaving the program in 1997. UNT head coach Darrell Dickey is actually named after Darrell Royal, but some of the biggest names in college football now play each week in the stadium re-named for the legendary Texas coach. And that will make all the difference. Texas 48, North Texas 10.

Pearle -- Anybody catch "Mystery, Alaska"? Russell Crowe plays a small town sheriff who moonlights as a hockey player. The little town of Mystery is hockey crazy, with most of the town's young men playing a spirited "Saturday Game" on the local frozen pond each weekend. Some of these guys are players, but mostly they're auto mechanics and mailmen just playing for the love of the game. Suddenly the ex-high school sweetheart of Crowe's wife shows up and through his connections, has managed to wrangle a game with the New York-bygod-Rangers, right there in Mystery, on the frozen pond. I won't give away the ending except to say that the game turns out to be a dogfight (surprise!) Well, the Texas-UNT game reminds me a little of that flick. I see Texas lining up against the Mean Green about like the Rangers lined up against Mystery's ragtag scrappers, only the outcome of this one is going to be no Mystery. UNT has historically played Texas tough because it has everything to play for against UT, while the Horns always just manage to stifle their yawns long enough to take care of business -- barely, in some cases. But this time, it will not be close -- not early, not at halftime, and certainly not by the fourth quarter. Texas has too much firepower on offense and too many great athletes on D, and the game is in Royal-Memorial. Longhorn fans have been waiting eight long months for the start of this oh-so-promising season. Despite UNT's lack of marquee appeal, the Burnt Orange Nation should be out in full-throated force. Make it Texas 52, North Texas 7.

Ross -- Over the last several years, Texas has not faced a serious opening game challenge (save for the '99 North Carolina State debacle when the Wolfpack, who finished the season with a losing record, had no business playing the Horns within 21 that late August evening but instead turned in a shocking, blocking-punts effort for the upset over a far superior Texas team). After opening with toughies (Auburn, BYU, Colorado, Penn State, Mississippi State), often on the road, in the 80s and through the early 90s, UT's scheduling philosophy has obviously shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum with games vs. D-I bottom dwellers Rutgers, New Mexico State, Louisiana-Lafayette and now, North Texas. But can UNT turn in an NCSU-type performance and put the Horns' championship hopes DOA? Answer: NO! And I mean that in the emphatic, all-caps way, not as an acronym. The (not so) Mean Green bring a one-dimensional attack -- run, run, and run again -- to DKR, and this UT D, despite question marks in the defensive middle, is capable of slowing (if not shutting down) a one-dimensional attack from a team the caliber of North Texas. The team from up I-35 is a veteran one, and I don't expect it to be intimidated by the wall-to-wall, 80K-plus Burnt Orange surroundings, but I do expect the sheer talent of Texas to eventually overwhelm the visitors. It may not happen in the first quarter, but it will happen. UT will look to achieve what it did not in last year's opener against a sorry bunch from NMSU, a from-the-first-kick dominance on the ground. With that established -- and it will be established -- the Horns will move the ball almost at will. The only Longhorns that won't see the field are those that are projected redshirts, and there aren't many of those. Texas 50, North Texas 10.


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