Cal Football: First Look at the North Texas Mean Green

Golden Bears' veteran pass defense will face one of the nation's most prolific passers

Cal, coming off a stunning 20-19 win over Washington, will have to come back to earth in time to face North Texas, which features one of the best unknown players (Mason Fine) and best nicknames (Mean Green) in the country.

Here is the early report on what you need to know about the Mean Green:

KICKOFF: 1:15 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Berkeley.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

WEATHER FORECAST: Afternoon high of 79 is projected, with light winds and a 10 percent chance of rain.

NORTH TEXAS 2019 RECORD: 1-1

THE SERIES: First meeting

NORTH TEXAS COACH: Seth Littrell is 24-18 in his fourth season as head coach of the Mean Green. North Texas won nine games each of the past two seasons and has played in a bowl game in Littrell’s first three full seasons, although the team lost all three. The 41-year-old had his first full-time coaching job as a running backs coach under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. He also had assistant stints at Arizona and North Carolina. He was a fullback at Oklahoma and a team captain on the Sooners’ team that won the 2000 national championship.

NORTH TEXAS STORYLINES: Overwhelming favorites to win the Conference USA West title, the Mean Green is coming off a disappointing — and decisive — 49-27 road loss to former Cal coach Sonny Dykes’ SMU squad. North Texas beat the Mustangs last season at home and was hoping to win in Dallas for the first time since 1933. But SMU led 21-0 in the first quarter, rolled up 503 yards of offense and roughed up North Texas star quarterback Mason Fine. SMU took the field wearing jerseys that read simply “Dallas,” a message that clearly stated its determination not to lose to the Mean Green at home. North Texas opened its season with a 51-31 win over Abilene Christian, an FCS program.

THE MEAN GREEN’S BEST PLAYER: Mason Fine, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior from Peggs, Okla., is the two-time reigning Offensive Player of the Year in Conference USA. A largely ignored two-star prospect out of high school despite passing for more than 13,000 yards and 166 touchdowns in his career, Fine has been a star for the Mean Green. He will arrive in Berkeley having passed for 9,952 career yards with 69 touchdowns. Fine is on the preseason watch list for virtually every national honor that could go to a quarterback, including the Davey O’Brien, Manning and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, and the athletic department has established a website to promote him for college football’s most famous award: 6ForHeisman.com

VS. THE PAC-12: North Texas is 2-7 all-time vs. current members of the Pac-12. The program’s most recent win was a 30-27 victory over Oregon State in 1995. The Mean Green’s only other conquest of a current Pac-12 team was 20-13 over Arizona State in 1954.

VISITING CALIFORNIA: The Mean Green doesn’t often travel to California. In fact, this will be their first visit here since a 28-16 loss at San Jose State in 1981. The program’s most recent victory in California was a 21-10 win over Cal Poly Pomona in 1976.

HOMETOWN HEROES: Denton — part of the Dallas metroplex — is the hometown to two former Miss Americas, including Phyllis George, who later became a TV personality and the first lady of Kentucky. Singer Sly Stone was born in Denton as was Abner Haynes, who was rookie of the year and MVP in the inaugural year of the old American Football League. Denton probably is a bit less proud of Tex Watson, a member of the infamous Manson Family, who attended North Texas and joined a fraternity.

BETTING LINE: Cal is a 13-point favorite, according to VegasInsider.com’s opening line.

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