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Chronicle picks UNT first
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Houston Chronicle article from a Mean Green board.

<a href='http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/sports/fb/fbc/2766135' target='_blank'>http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl.../fb/fbc/2766135</a>

Chronicle picks UNT first

Time's are a-changin', but not for North Texas
Mean Green still the envy of this conference

The Sun Belt is yet another conference that is undergoing a raft of changes, part of the shock wave that has engulfed conferences from the Big East to the Mountain West.

The Sun Belt felt the first ripple this season, with former independent Troy State coming on board. Next season, though, Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State will be in the WAC, while Florida International, playing its first year of Division I-A football, and Florida Atlantic will join the Sun Belt.

Amid all these changes, there's one thing that most likely won't change -- North Texas should again be the Sun Belt's top dog. The Mean Green are gunning for their fourth straight conference title (sharing the 2001 championship with Middle Tennessee State).

The Mean Green enter the season with plenty of exclamation points -- an offense led by running back Patrick Cobbs, the nation's leading rusher (152.7 yards per game, 1,680 yards in 11 games, 19 TDs) and a defense led by end Adrian Awasom, the conference's preseason defensive player of the year, safety Jonas Buckles and tackle Evan Cardwell.

The QB Question: Can Aaron Leak improve his passing (42.5 percent last season) and decision-making (5 TDs vs. 12 INTs) enough to keep Troy State in the hunt?


Toughest schedule
Arkansas State plays five of its first six games on the road, including trips to Missouri and LSU.


Easiest schedule
Other than a Week 3 payday game at Kansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette's schedule isn't particularly trying.


Upset of the year
Arkansas State over Troy State on Oct. 16.


Games of the year
Troy State at New Mexico State, Sept. 18; North Texas at Utah State, Oct. 9; New Mexico State at North Texas, Oct. 23; Middle Tennessee State at New Mexico State, Nov. 6.


Don't be surprised if ...
Troy State's offense sputters, dropping the Trojans into the middle of the pack.


Projected order of finish
1. North Texas; 2. Troy State; 3. New Mexico State; 4. Louisiana-Lafayette; 5. Arkansas State; 6. Utah State; 7. Middle Tennessee State; 8. Louisiana-Monroe; 9. Idaho.

MICHAEL MURPHY
08-29-2004 01:33 PM
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