FACTS & STATS: Site: Joe Aillet Stadium (30,600) -- Ruston, Louisiana. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: UNT 3-0, LA Tech 1-1. Away Record: UNT 0-3, LA Tech 1-2. Neutral Record: UNT 0-0, LA Tech 0-1. Conference Record: UNT 1-1, LA Tech 1-1. Series Record: Louisiana Tech leads, 6-5.
GAME NOTES: Conference USA foes will try to make a leap in the standings on Saturday afternoon, as the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs play host to the North Texas Mean Green at Joe Aillet Stadium.
North Texas has endured an inconsistent start to the season, resulting in a 3-3 overall record and a 1-1 league ledger. The Mean Green have played well on their home field, winning all three of their matchups in Denton, including last week's bout with Middle Tennessee (34-7). The story has been quite different on the road, however, as they have dropped all three contests away from home.
Louisiana Tech has been largely a disappointment this season. Through its first five games, its only win came at home against FCS foe Lamar (27-14). The Bulldogs were able to get their season back on track in their latest game by defeating Texas-El Paso on the road, 38-35, to improve to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in conference.
These newly-minted C-USA rivals have not met since Louisiana Tech beat the Mean Green in 2006, 34-31. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 6-5.
The Mean Green have one of C-USA's most efficient offenses, as they rank in the upper-half of the league in both scoring (28.5 ppg) and yardage (402.7 ypg), although they have averaged just 21.0 ppg in their three road games.
Derek Thompson calls the shots under center for North Texas. He has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,459 yards and eight touchdowns, but he has also been mistake-prone with seven interceptions, two of which came in last week's win over Middle Tennessee.
Thompson is fortunate to have a strong duo of wide receivers to throw to, as Darnell Smith (41 receptions, 445 yards, three TDs) and Brelan Chancellor (27 receptions, 397 yards, two TDs) rank fifth and sixth in the conference in receiving yards, respectively.
Brandin Byrd is the most utilized tailback and has 325 yards and three scores on 72 carries. Reggie Pegram (228 yards) has his number called near the goal line and has cashed in with four touchdowns, but he is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.
Most of North Texas's success this season can be attributed to its strong defense, which ranks second in the league and 39th in the nation in allowing just 22.7 ppg. The unit has been opportunistic as well with 17 takeaways.
Zachary Orr has made plays all over the field with 55 tackles, 3.0 TFL, a sack, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Will Wright has two interceptions, and Marcus Trice has recorded 45 tackles, a pick, two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks.
Louisiana Tech's offense has seen a drastic decline in production from a season ago. One of the nation's most feared offenses in 2012 (51.5 ppg) has sputtered this year by scoring just 20.0 ppg on 388.7 ypg.
The inconsistency of the Bulldogs' freshman quarterback has been a big reason for their struggles. Ryan Higgins is completing less than 58 percent of his passes for 776 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Scotty Young has also seen plenty of action under center, and while he has yet to throw an interception, he hasn't been very impressive otherwise (.517 completion percentage, 452 yards, two TDs).
Kenneth Dixon is in the midst of a strong campaign with 554 rushing yards and three touchdowns, although he is well off the pace of his 27-touchdown rookie campaign from a season ago. He is fresh off a season-high 200-yard performance against UTEP.
Andrew Guillot has 15 receptions for a team-high 217 yards and two scores. D.J. Banks (163 yards) leads the way with 21 catches, but he has yet to find the end zone.
The Bulldogs defense ranks in the middle of the pack in C-USA in allowing 26.8 ppg and 422.3 ypg, but while the unit has played admirably, it isn't good enough to support the lackluster offense.
Daniel Cobb is the defensive catalyst, racking up 50 tackles while also making his presence known behind the line of scrimmage with 8.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks. IK Enemkpali is a great pass-rusher with 7.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks and five QB hurries, and Levander Liggins is a shut-down defensive back with and interception and nine passes defended.
North Texas has been the more reliable team this season, but its inability to step up on the road will hinder its goals of making a legitimate splash in the conference this season. If the Bulldogs can control the clock with Dixon and make a few timely plays on defense, they should be able to walk away with a solid home win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 28, North Texas 24
Saturday, October 19, 3:30 p.m. (et)