Start Time: 7:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Oct. 3
Location: Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
TV: CBSSN Streaming:
Records: MTSU 2-2, Vanderbilt 1-3. Vanderbilt leads the overall series 12-3.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: MTSU -1.5. Over/Under: 50.
MTSU Outlook: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders have been explosive on offense with an IsoPPP of 1.44. Special teams have been excellent with the offense starting on the 33 yard line. The Blue Raiders are also one of the best at finishing drives, earning 5.56 points per trip inside the 40.
The running game, averaging 161.5 yards per game, is successful on only 42.6% of all rushing attempts. Even when gaining positive yards, the run game is one of the worst in the nation in making explosive plays. Running backs Jordan Parker (61/305/4TD) Shane Tucker (38/115/0TD) are steady backs, but do not show the ability to make long runs on a regular basis in this offense.
Passing the ball is completely different with the Blue Raiders holding an IsoPPP of 1.89 in the passing game. The biggest issue in the passing game is a success rate of only 40.7%. Brent Stockstill (98-141/1221/12TD) took over the quarterback position in the offseason and has looked very good with a 69.5% completion rate and over 1200 yards passing. His favorite targets are Ed’Marques Batties (30/446/7TD) and Richie James (34/352/1TD). Combined, the rest of the team has only been targeted 43 total times on the year. MTSU is averaging 315.2 total passing yards per game.
MTSU has struggled versus the run game so far this season. Offenses are successful on 40.6% of all offensive plays, but that number jumps to 50.0% on running plays. Even with poor numbers versus the run, MTSU is only giving up 120.5 yards on the ground per game. Opponents have ran the ball on only 41.5% of standard downs and 23.1% of all passing downs this season. Overall, the Blue Raiders are giving up 230.8 yards passing in the air per game.
Linebackers TT Barber (27 tkl, 4 tfl, 2 sacks) and Cavellis Luckett (21 tkl, 1 tfl), as well as safety Kevin Byard (20.5 tkl, 1 tfl, 1 INT) are players to watch on defense.
Vanderbilt Outlook: The Commodores are one of the worst in the nation in turnover luck at -6.15 ppg. Vanderbilt is the worst team in the nation at finishing drives. The offense is only scoring 2.87 points per trip inside the 40 yard line. Special teams have helped the offense with drives starting the 33 yard line on average. With an S&P+ of 79.6 and a success rate of 28.2%, Vanderbilt is one of the least successful but most explosive teams in the nation running the football. Much of that is due to the running ability of quarterback Johnny McCrary. Ralph Webb (83/282/2TD) Dallas Rivers (30/64/1TD) have yet to prove they are SEC caliber backs on a regular basis.
The Vanderbilt passing game has shown significant improvement with the improved play of wide receiver Trent Shefield (28/402/2TD). Sherfield is being targeted on 25.5% of all pass plays with a catch rate of 70% on 40 targets. Quarterback Johnny McCrary (93-159/1074/5TD) has an overall completion rate of 58.5%, a number that must improve soon.
Facing some very good running games to start the season, Vanderbilt has been able to hold their own with a success rate of 38.6% and a rush defense success rate of 37.1%. The number that stands out the most is a stuff rate of 29.9%, good for eighth nationally. In the passing game, the Commodores have really excelled. With a pass defense S&P+ of 156.3 and an IsoPPP of 1.27, Vanderbilt does not give up big plays in the passing game. That is an excellent trait in a defense, forcing offenses to play mistake free football on long drives. Many times, the Commodores can benefit from an offensive mistake and get off the field. Players to watch on the Vanderbilt defense include: Oren Burks (22 tkl, 1.5 tfl, 1 INT), Darreon Herring (22 tkl, 0.5 tfl), Zach Cunningham (20 tkl, 1.5 tfl, 1 sack), and Tre Herndon (18 tkl, 1 tfl, 1 sack). Prediction: It is quite the bold move to schedule an SEC foe as a homecoming opponent. MTSU did just that in scheduling Vanderbilt for their 2015 homecoming opponent. This game should be one of the closest of week five with the two teams point margin at 0.3 points. MTSU is the slight favorite with a 51% win probability. Despite the Blue Raiders playing this game at home and becoming slight favorites, I feel that the Vanderbilt offense finally gets it done and pulls out a win. Vanderbilt 26, MTSU 23.