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'Are we a real program or do we just disappear for another 10 years?'

In 2013, North Texas played in its first bowl game in a full decade. The Mean Green ended one of FBS's longest bowl droughts. But they weren't alone. Tulane, UNLV, Colorado State and Washington State also ended prolonged postseason absences. 

At the start of spring ball earlier this month, North Texas head coach Dan McCarney laid out the charge facing his program - and those like it - as perfectly as I've seen. 

“The challenge ahead is this: Are we a real program, which means no matter who you lose or who gets injured or who graduates, the next group comes in and replaces them,” McCarney said. “Or do we just disappear off the college football landscape for another 10 years before we can have success again? We want to keep the edge and be really successful and have a program that people can be proud of.”

North Texas closed the 2013 season with wins in seven of their final eight games, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 115-24 in the second half of those seven victories. With a new stadium, an upgraded conference, an accomplished coach and an administration willing to invest a five-year contract in him, North Texas plans on continuing its winning ways. (Returning one of the most experienced offensive lines in college football and the majority of their ball-carriers doesn't hurt, either.)

We know where the Mean Green stands. What about everyone else?

“These guys know what we expect, and there have been rewards for their efforts,” McCarney said. “They have seen what can happen if you believe, defy the odds, don’t worry about outside expectations and only worry about what happens on the inside. There is a tradition now of winning.”