Start Time: Noon, EST
Location: Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN
Streaming: ESPNU, or here.
Records: Middle Tennessee 5-5 (3-3), North Texas 1-9 (1-5)
Series: North Texas leads the all-time series, 8-5
Line: Middle Tennessee -24, O/U 63.5
Middle Tennessee is a much better team than their thoroughly mediocre record would have you believe. Once an arch-rival of North Texas, they have now made the transition to Bizarro North Texas, as both hired coaches with zero college head coach experience 8-9 years back. One, Todd Dodge, washed out in four years and was kicked back to the high school ranks. The other, Rick Stockstill, energized the team, took them to the top of the conference and a CUSA invite, and currently sits with a comfy 62-60 lifetime coaching record. Also like Dodge, he recruited his own son to the roster at QB. The similarities are insane, the next thing you'll tell me there are other FBS teams in the state that get way more attention and fan support.
Blue Raider Outlook:
While former North Texas QB Riley Dodge transferred to FCS McNeese State, upstart Brent Stockstill has thrown for 3100 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, completing 65% of his passes while also saving Metropolis from a meteor. The Blue Raiders are having all the success North Texas should've been, and even though WKU is having a little more, it's still hurtful.
Unlike, say, the Big 12 schedule-- which tends to be more backloaded-- the MTSU schedule is front-loaded with all the easy targets at the end, like Clemson. They're 5-5 with their last two games against UNT and UTSA, which might've looked impressive a year ago, but as of now will keep them off TV until bowl time.
Middle Tennesee has been blown out by teams with a strong offense (WKU, Alambama), run neck and neck with teams with a halfway decent defense (close loss to Illinois, close win over Marshall), and absolutely obliterated teams with neither (70+ points against Charlotte and FCS Jackon State). At this point in the season, the writing is on the wall. Barring the next meteor strike getting through, MTSU is a lock for 7-5 and a bowl game that ESPN makes condescending comments about.
North Texas Outlook:
Teams having a worse season than North Texas: UCF, ULM and arguably Kansas.
We'll tell ourselves it's unclear whether the 24-0 loss to Tennessee last week was due to stingy defense or a vaguely bored Volunteer secondary. DaMarcus Smith was at his usual 50% completion rate, tossing for a mere 100 yards. This was roughly the same number of yards North Texas had rushing.
In short, after Canales took a step back against Louisiana Tech the week before, he took another step back last week. If he wants the full time gig, he'll have to show us something, anything this week, playing on Senior Night in Murfreesboro, against a team fully expecting to do to UNT what the Volunteers did the week before. There is very little evidence to prove them wrong.
Middle Tennessee will go with their starters, at least for the first half, because they want to make sure this game is in the bag, and also impress potential bowl selectors. North Texas beat UTSA because they were hungry for a win, and while that will remain the case this week, UNT has already lost to Marshall big, and Marshall went toe-to-toe with MTSU for a 27-24 loss on Nov. 7. While it may be amusing to watch all the Big 12 teams beat each other as the season ends, CUSA is having no such trouble.
UNT previously lost to La Tech 56-13, and Marshall 30-13. Let's split the difference.
Middle Tennessee 43, North Texas 13