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HOUSTON (Sept. 22) -- One thing's perfectly clear about Saturday's 5 p.m. tilt at Rice Stadium between the homestanding Owls and the visitors from North Texas. They don't do ties in college football anymore; there's going to be a winner, and there's going to be a loser.

While the Owls are winless in three tries -- as all of us who keep track of the grid Bottom 10 and Bottom 25 columns know -- the Mean Green are 1-2, but with their lone win coming against FCS entrant Bethune-Cookman.

Each side will be pretty much desperate for a victory -- the players, their fans, and, lord knows, certainly the respective coaches of each team.

This one's a head-scratcher. Last week against monster opponent Florida, UNT lost "only" 32-0, but in so doing they gained a grand total of 53 yards total offense. Turns out that's the stingiest defensive effort ever put up by Gator gridders in their over-century-long history.

UNT's true freshman quarterback, Mason Fine, was sacked seven times by the Florida defense, but arose to fight again each time -- no mean feat, given that he checks in at only 5-11, 170 pounds soaking wet, and just a season ago was bowing under as QB for the Pirates of Locust Grove High School in rural Oklahoma.

As a schoolboy, Fine put up some beyond-impressive numbers, accumulating 13,081 yards passing, which ranks number eight, all-time, in national high school ranks. He also ran or passed for 166 touchdowns, fifth all-time in high school football history.

Shades of Kenneth Hall. (Is anyone out there old enough to remember who Kenneth Hall was? Sugar Land residents?)

Actually, “shades of Kyle Herm” would be a more accurate analogy, and a much more recent reference.

The greenhorn was sent onto the field for the first time in fourth quarter UNT's open-game loss to SMU, immediately leading his team on a face-saving TD drive. Once he got the job, he's kept it.

He did show some reflections of his prolific high school career in the Eagles' easy 41-20 win over outmanned and overmatched Bethune-Cookman, not exactly one of your small-college football powers.

But last week the hard times came at Gainesville. Suffice it to say that his ability and performance level stands to land somewhere between the varying results he displayed in the Bethune-Cookman and the Florida games.

Ah, but where?

Rookie head coach Seth Littrell has gone about installing a new spread offensive scheme in Denton this season. The Owls have been notoriously susceptible to even fairly feeble spread attacks when they're run by a mobile quarterback with speedy wideouts who can push the attack downfield.

Yet the South Main boys, after whiffing against Western Kentucky's passing game and Army's running game, showed signs of life defensively against Baylor last week, especially early in the contest.

Ironically, then, it may the defenses of the two teams upon which the game's outcome ultimately turns.

Mean Green defenders put up a third-quarter goose egg against the Gators, and two times put up goal line defenses stopping the Floridians on fourth down inside the ten.

Defensive back Nate Brooks was key in the effort, intercepting a pass, breaking up a couple other passing attempts, and putting up eight tackles on the night.

Elsewhere on defense, the Meanies are paced by junior safety Kishawn McClain (Rosenberg, Texas), a preseason All-Conference USA selection, who led the team in tackles in 2015, recording 110 as a sophomore, which ranked within the top 10 nationally.

There’s also Junior linebacker Joshua Wheeler (Grand Prairie, Texas), a transfer from Tyler JC, where he excelled as a juco All-American pass rusher.

With those guys roaming the turf, in their 41-20 win against Bethune-Cookman, the UNT defense gave up only a single score.

Bethune-Cookman took an early lead via an 88-yard punt return, and later registered a pick-six for their second score of the game. Were it not for an 83-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Akevious Williams with 2:42 remaining in the fourth, North Texas' defense would have pitched a shutout.

But that was against Bethune-Cookman.