The first name to know for Middle Tennessee is that of freshman phenom quarterback Brent Stockstill. The son of head coach Rick Stockstill, Brent has already surpassed the 3,000 passing yard mark this season. His 65.8% completion rate and 26:8 TD to INT ratio is extremely impressive for a young quarterback. The Roadrunners likely won't shut him down but he may be prone to some typical freshman mental gaffes if UTSA can generate a pass rush.
Senior and all-conference linebacker T.T. Barber leads the way for the Blue Raiders on defense. His 71 tackles account for 11% of the team's total. The hard-nosed senior has also been able to muddy up offenses by creating 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, an interception, and three pass breakups.
Senior safeties Quay Watt and Kevin Byard are also stand outs on the defense. Watt is the team's leading tackler behind Barber (45 tackles) while Byard has three interceptions and five pass break ups to his name. MTSU has some talented players on defense but they do not generate much pocket pressure, as their opponents are being sacked on only 2.5% of plays, a 5% drop from the national average.
UTSA Outlook: By heavens, the Roadrunners finally won a game at home. Lead by strong offensive performances from quarterback Dalton Sturm and running back Jarveon Williams, UTSA was able to beat Rice for the first time in four years.
Interestingly enough, the Roadrunners have always ended their seasons on the Alamodome turf. Furthermore, they've never lost a season ending-game. While the Roadrunners don't have anything tangible to play for as far as bowls or championships are concerned, they'll definitely want to send their senior class out with a victory.
UTSA was able to air out the offense against Rice in a way that we haven't seen in quite some time. The Roadrunners are averaging just 6.5 yards per passing attempt this season but Dalton Sturm was able to find David Morgan and Kerry Thomas for some long completions against the Owls. The 14.5 yards per attempt was almost a whole first down better than their season average. This can mostly be attributed to Rice's awful secondary but it was a turning point for Dalton Sturm and offensive coordinator Kevin Brown who finally showed some confidence in his young quarterback to open up the playbook down field.
This game will be a swan song for many of UTSA's top contributors on defense.
The Roadrunners will lose their best duo of cornerbacks ever in Trevor Baker and Bennett Okotcha. They've combined for seven interceptions and 24 pass deflections this season, even with Baker missing the first four games of the season.
Safeties Duke Wheeler and Mauricio Sanchez brought a level of stability to the position that wasn't expected heading into the season. A former walk-on, Wheeler has established himself as the team's leading tackler while bolstering his reputation as a tough defender. Sanchez has been a four-year starter that has done an amazing job representing the university on and off the field.
Middle linebacker Drew Douglas will be very difficult for the Roadrunners to replace. Despite standing at just 6'1", 225, his fiery sense of competition made him a Goliath on the field.
UTSA will also have to bid farewell to two terrific defensive linemen in Brian Price and Jason Neill. Both massive linemen, they helped to lay the groundwork of UTSA's identity of being runstoppers.
Prediction: This is such a weird game to predict. Middle Tennessee made a strange decision to announce their bowl destination early. I think that saps some of the team's intensity to reach seven wins. The Roadrunners are playing their last game with a good group of seniors that will treat this week as a bowl game.
I can't cheap out on you, loyal reader, by making picks with my heart though. MTSU's air attack will likely be too much for UTSA to match despite a passionate effort from the Roadrunners for four quarters.