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La Tech vs Middle Tennessee Preview

The top two offenses in C-USA face off

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kickoff Time: 6:00 PM CDT

Location: Murfreesboro, TN

Stadium: Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium

TV: ASN

Streaming: cusa.tv

Series Record: La Tech leads 4-1

Last Meeting: 2015, La Tech 45-16

Betting Line: Middle Tennessee -5.5

Over/Under: 68


First, shout out to the scheduling genius that is having Tech play the Red Raiders and the Blue Raiders in consecutive weeks.

Should Louisiana Tech take it as a compliment that they are apparently everyone’s specialty game? First Texas Tech’s white out, now MTSU’s black out.

Whatever color people choose to wear, La Tech @ MTSU is definitely the C-USA game of the week as conference play gets underway in earnest with every team in the West playing a conference opponent. The #1 C-USA offense (MTSU) will face #2 (La Tech) in what should be a high scoring affair (hear that, Big XII?)

La Tech’s QB questions seem to be answered. Despite some fans still asking for J’Mar Smith, Ryan Higgins has established himself as the clear starter. And while many fans are slow to accept that he might actually be good, the numbers don’t lie. He has a QBR of 159.0, which is good for 3rd in C-USA. MTSU’s Brent Stockstill, for comparison, has a 153.3 QBR, which comes in 5th.

I was gonna crunch some numbers here, but I’ll spare you the boredom. These two teams look similar to me. Great offenses, defenses that have played well but have also had struggles. In individual statistical leaders, each has a player in the top 5 in most categories.

La Tech does need to address the play of their defense. HC Skip Holtz said the way they played in Lubbock was not to their normal standard. Players got more and more frustrated as the game went on. One player got ejected, another came close as they gave up 59 to the potent Red Raider offense.

Still, I’d be more concerned about MTSU’s defense. They gave up 47 points to Vanderbilt, the least productive offense in the SEC. Tech only gave up 21 to Arkansas. Vanderbilt overplayed their season average so far against MTSU. The game against Tech has thus far been Arkansas’ lowest scoring game. Was that legit, or just first game rust?

If you look at the defensive numbers, take them with a grain of salt. Tech’s looks less than good, but they just played Texas Tech, an offense that would make any defense look bad. MTSU has averaged 98.7 passing yards allowed so far, but the teams they’ve played haven’t exactly been very good at throwing the ball. I think the line favoring MTSU is based on numbers that may not be the most accurate reflection.

These are two very good teams and both are capable of winning their divisions. I wouldn’t call this a must-win for either team, but opening conference play with a win against a competitive team would be huge for confidence and momentum going forward.

Prediction

Prepare for another shoot out. Brent Stockstill will drop dimes to Richie James and I’Tavius Mathers will test the Bulldog’s run defense. But Ryan Higgins will give Trent Taylor chances to make plays and will fire shots to Carlos Henderson, and the true Blue Raider pass defense will be revealed. Jarred Craft will keep the ball moving and the Bulldog defense, led by Xavier Woods, will bounce back from last week to allow the Bulldogs to outscore the Blue Raiders.

Louisiana Tech 40, Middle Tennessee 31