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Middle Tennessee Offense Needs a Jolt

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (5-4, 4-1) are right in the middle of the Conference USA race. With three games left on the schedule, Rick Stockstill's team has a chance to finish strong and get in a good bowl game. In order to get reach their goals, the Blue Raiders have to get their offense going again.

The FIU defense will bring the pain on Saturday.
The FIU defense will bring the pain on Saturday.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In last week's 27-7 loss to BYU, MTSU managed just 228 yards of offense, including a measly 84 yards in the second half. The game was tied 7-7 at halftime, and BYU took the game over from there. Austin Grammer was 16-32 for just 119 yards and a touchdown against BYU and he threw two interceptions. The Blue Raiders punted the ball nine times.

Middle Tennessee ranks 45th in the country in Total Offense and they are tied for 34th in Rushing Offense with over 200 yards per game on the ground. Their three headed attack of Reggie Whatley (6.7 yards per rush), Jordan Parker, and Shane Tucker have amassed 1344 yards on the ground and Parker and Tucker have also combined for 385 yards receiving. That's a lot of production from one backfield.

MTSU is averaging 37 points per game in conference play and will look to get going again against Florida International. The Panthers are the exact opposite of Middle Tennessee. FIU is 46th in Total Defense and 64th in rushing defense. Stockstill said the Panthers will present a major challenge. "FIU has lost three games by a combined eight points," he explained. "They have got a bunch of turnovers. Their offense is doing a very good job protecting the ball and the defense. Their offense is not putting the defense on a short field. Their defense is very opportunistic."

FIU has lost four straight games, but after scoring 20 points or less in six straight outings; the Panthers put up 35 points in last week's loss to Old Dominion. FIU has already played spoiler to division rivals UAB and FAU earlier in the year and they would like nothing else to put MTSU's bowl aspirations on hold.

For Middle Tennessee, they have to get back to what got them in a winning position in the first place. Run the ball, don't turn it over, and make good throws on third down. Grammer is completing 65% of his passes and he has thrown just seven interceptions. The Blue Raiders are 58th in the country in third down conversions.

FIU is 24th in third down defense and they are tied for 16th in turnover margin. The Golden Panthers will present a great challenge for MTSU because this game will be strength against strength. Who will execute the game plan on Saturday? Can MTSU get bowl eligible or will FIU play the spoiler once again?