Jackson State-Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Start Time: 7:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 5
Location: Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Radio: MTSU: Here. Jackson State: Hallelujah 95.5 FM.
Records: MTSU 1, Jackson State 0. Last meeting: 28-7 MTSU in 1990.
Live Stats: N/A
Betting Line: No line.
MTSU Outlook: Redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill beat out incumbent Austin Grammar for the starting quarterback job so the coaching staff must have a lot of faith in the youngster.
The running back trio of Jordan Parker (128/546/2TD), Shane Tucker (97/486/8TD), and Jeremiah Bryson (42/221/6TD) should help Stockstill ease into his role with the group combining for 1,253 yards and 16 touchdowns last fall.At wide receiver, the Blue Raiders have an solid starter in 2014 leading receiver Ed'Marques Batties (45/474/3TD). MTSU does have other pass catching options at wide receiver in juniors Terry Pettis (15/241/1TD), Demetrius Frazier (15/165/0TD), and Christian Collis (13/79/1TD) but only Pettis shows the ability to stretch the field. Led by preseason 1st team All-CUSA lineman and Lombardi Award Watch List member Darius Johnson, the Blue Raiders return three linemen with 8+ starts last fall. Juniors Josh Chester and Daniel Stephens make up the returning starting group.
Shaquille Huff (28 tkl, 5 tfl, 2 sacks) and Jimal McBride (25 tkl, 4.5 tfl, 2.5 sacks) should be the key performers on the defensive line for the Blue Raiders defense looking to imrpove on an average 2014 season. At linebacker, it is all about senior linebacker T.T. Barber (72 tkl, 7.5 tfl, 1 sack, 2 INT). The preseason first team All-CUSA member and Lombardi Watch List member has started 28 straight games and was the team's leading tackler last fall. Fellow seniors Cavellis Luckett (57 tkl, 3 tfl, 2 sacks) and Trey Wafford (53 tkl) will make up a very expereinced linebacker corps. Senior strong safety Kevin Byard (66 tkl, 3 tfl, 6 INT), a preseason first team All-CUSA selection and picked for the Jim Thorpe Watch List should be the Blue Raiders leader in the secondary. Seniors Xavier Walker (67 tkl, 1 INT) and Jared Singletary (53 tkl, 2 INT) give significant depth to the MTSU defensive backfield.
Jackson State Outlook: To say that the Jackson State Tigers are returning very little on offense is an understatement. Evan Ingram is the leading returing passer after attempting only 31 passes last fall. Ingram is flanked by leading returning rusher Rakeem Sims (100/474/5TD) and leading receiver Tobias Singleton (30/476/2TD) on the outside. Senior offensive lineman Jonathan Smith is expected to contend for all confernece honors this fall. Kicker Ryan Deising is a solid kicker in making 12-15 attempts but none were longer than from 31 yards out.
The Tigers return leading tackler Ariane McCree (94 tkl) along with linebackers Tedderick Terrell (7 sacks), Ryan Griffin, Javancy Jones. All three linebackers are among the best in conference and should earn awards for their play this fall. Defensive back Antonio Sutton should give some strength to a secondary that will face lots of passes in the season opener.
Prediction: The Blue Raiders are coming into this season as a major dark horse candidate to make a move in the CUSA East. All of that talk will be for nothing if MTSU doesn't take care of business in Week One and beat Jackson State. This is a bit of a trap game for MTSU as they have fallen at home to FCS programs in the past and cannot afford for that to happen again. MTSU should be prepared and ready to take down Jackson State easily.