North Texas (6-6) vs. Miami (6-6)
December 23, 2:30 p.m., Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Conferences: Conference USA (UNT) vs. Mid-American (Miami)
By Troy Phillips
Win, and you’re in. Probably.
Past college football seasons have seen six-win teams reach that bowl-eligible threshold but receive no postseason invitation.
Other years, 5-7 teams were needed to fill bowl slots.
Bowl Season has its eccentricities. When the 2021 regular season wrapped December 5, there were 83 bowl-eligible teams, including 6-7 Hawaii for 41 bowl games.
Adding Hawaii required one more game, and in the 11th-hour, the inaugural Frisco Football Classic filled the need for a 42nd bowl.
North Texas and Miami both hit that magic win number at 6-6, and they’ll square off in the Frisco Football Classic on December 23 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on ESPN.
It’s the third short drive for UNT for a bowl game. The Mean Green appeared in the 2014 and 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl (now the Servpro First Responder Bowl). Both UNT and Miami are making their 13th bowl appearances.
UNT now has bowled four times in the past five seasons after the 2020 Myrtle Beach Bowl, 2018 New Mexico Bowl and 2017 New Orleans Bowl. Miami fell 27-17 to Louisiana in the 2020 Lending Tree Bowl.
Getting to six required contrasting methods and styles for UNT and Miami, which knocked off Bowling Green 34-7 for its sixth win. The RedHawks recovered from a 2-4 start and were a 1-point overtime loss to Kent State from winning seven games and making the MAC Championship.
UNT staggered to a 1-6 start, a bowl looking unlikely at mid-season. A mix of favorable second-half scheduling, tightened-up defense (17 ppg allowed over five consecutive victories), an overtime win against Rice and beating two other bowl-bound teams all fell UNT’s way to get No. 6.
UNT saved its best “have-to” for the final week of the regular season. On November 27, No. 15 UTSA, then 11-0 and one of the Group of Five’s 2021 Cinderellas, was rolled under in Denton.
UNT rushed for 340 yards, six TDs and 20 first downs in a 45-23 rout. UTSA (12-1) still advanced to and won the Conference USA Championship game, but UNT won six at the best possible moment against, by far, its top opponent.
“This is a great reward for our players and all they accomplished this season,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “We are excited for this chance nearby in Frisco to compete in front of our fans again, especially against a talented Miami team.”
Miami will face a UNT offense averaging nearly 250 rushing yards a game and with 30 rushing touchdowns. The RedHawks led the MAC in scoring defense (22.0), rush defense (120.5), sacks (30) and fourth-down conversion defense (66.7 percent).
Miami quarterback Brett Gabbert, the younger brother of NFL quarterback Blaine Gabbert, has thrown for 2,418 yards and 24 touchdowns, with just six interceptions. UNT running back DeAndre Torrey has 1,255 yards and 13 TDs rushing.
Miami coach Chuck Martin said not winning the MAC East division by that slim overtime margin was disappointing, but “we’re excited to win six and get to a bowl game. We’re excited to have the opportunity, and we’ll be ready.”