Countdown to kickoff: Hello, North Texas

GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throught August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, Gary Laney has a Q&A with Brett Vito of the Denton, Texas Record-Chronicle, who covers LSU's first opponent, North Texas. For more, see the GTN blog:

Q: After losing a 4,000-yard career rusher in Lance Dunbar, what's the offensive identity going to be for the Mean Green? Will they throw it around more?

I have a hard time believing that UNT won’t continue to lean on its running game. The strength of UNT’s team offensively is a really good offensive line and running the ball is in (head coach) Dan McCarney’s DNA. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales has been known to throw the ball around a bit, but I just don’t see the days of UNT running the ball at people going away. The question is who will be the next in the great line of UNT running backs that dates to the early 2000s with national rushing champions Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas and then Lance Dunbar. UNT does not have a proven running back like any of those guys, but does have enough competent guys back there to carry the ball.

Quarterback Derek Thompson played well last year, but picked up a lot of his passing yards off play-action. That is where his strength was last year. I just don’t see UNT abandoning what worked to have Thompson try to sit back there and try to be John Elway, picking people apart down the field. I don’t think he is that type of quarterback.

Q: Losing cornerback Freddie Warner to an ACL injury in the spring hurts the secondary. How good can the defense be?

Losing Warner is going to be huge for UNT. One could make an argument that he is the player UNT could least afford to lose in the off-season. He started three games in 2011 before being lost for the year with an injury. But he showed in that short time that he was going to be UNT’s best defensive back returning. It’s not even close.

This team is now essentially heading into the season with four defensive starters returning who will actually play at the beginning of the season. Three of those guys are defensive linemen. Everything past those linemen is a huge question mark.

Q: Do North Texas fans see games like the LSU games as an opportunity or just a necessary evil to pay the bills? Is there more excitement, or trepidation?

That question has been a huge topic of debate at UNT through the years. Former UNT head coach Darrell Dickey, the guy who took UNT to all three of its winning seasons, all four of its bowl games and all four of its conference titles since the school resumed playing at the FBS level in 1995, saw games like ones against LSU as a necessary evil. That didn’t sit well with some UNT fans. Since Dickey left in 2006, the term that has come in vogue is “opportunity game.”

UNT is 1-41 all-time against ranked teams and has lost 33 straight games against ranked teams since beating San Diego State in 1974. Most of those games haven’t been close. The average score of the last 10 is 49-4.