Start Time: 7 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. CST
Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton, TX
Live Stats: CBS Gametracker
Betting Line: Middle Tennessee -15.5, O/U 62.5
Series Record: UNT leads 8-6. MTSU won last year’s match-up 41-7.
A little Sun Belt nostalgia this week as former SBC rivals clash in Denton, with North Texas coming off a conference-opening OT win over hapless Rice, and MTSU celebrating a squeaker against Louisiana Tech. This game was a blowout last year, but it’s always a blowout — the last time this match-up was decided by less than two touchdowns was 2010.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
High-flying and free-wheeling, this team is the Louisville of the Group of Five set, or at least C-USA. QB Brent Stockstill has been playing out of his mind every year at Middle Tennessee; we’re in Week Five and he’s already thrown for over 1300 yards. His stats were similar last year, as Stockstill threw 4005 yards on the season (as a FRESHMAN), beating all of the bad C-USA teams and losing to all the good ones (except Marshall, whom they beat in triple overtime).
The core is back and overall the team seems to be an improvement on 2015’s campaign. They lost to Vandy by a wider margin, but beat La. Tech 38-34 last week after losing 45-16 the year before. This is an offensive-minded team and will put the ball in the air more times than anyone UNT has seen this season, possibly even more than Florida. That alone could put this one away early.
On the ground, they have fewer weapons, as I’Tavius Matthews makes a good counterpoint to UNT’s Jeffrey Wilson. Matthews has rushed for 447 yards on 68 carries already this season. Their next leading rusher is only at 113 so far.
Additionally, don’t expect much defense. After blanking FCS Alabama A&M in the first week by a mere 55-0, they allowed 21 points in their victory over Bowling Green, and the aforementioned 34 against Louisiana Tech. These UNT/MTSU games were indeed blowouts back in the Sun Belt days, but this one looks to be either a close game or a blowout in MTSU’s favor. There is no middle ground.
North Texas Mean Green
Remember that counterpoint to Jeffrey Wilson? Wilson is exceptional, and was the best player on the field last week against Rice, but does only stand at 352 yards on 57 carries so far. MTSU’s Stockstill is a sophomore, current UNT starting QB Mason Fine is a freshman. And while Fine’s numbers have been pretty good, we don’t see him throwing for 4000 yards in his entire college career let alone this season. We could say Fine is a bigger threat to run, as he’s attempted to do so twice as often as Stockstill, but Fine is currently averaging 1.0 yard per rush, so nevermind.
So MTSU doesn’t care about defense, neither does Rice, and Wilson ran all over Rice, yes? North Texas is noticeably improved this season, yes? This should make for a promising game, yes?
Well, do remember last week’s game went into OT and Rice is having a terrible season. It’s entirely possible UNT could score more than the 28 points they scored in regulation last week, and it’s entirely possible MTSU could score fewer points than the 41 they did against the Mean Green last year.
But at this point in the season, the receivers for North Texas are only “pretty okay.” Wilson and Willy Ivery have put up some good numbers but other RBs are non-existent. North Texas’ job this week is to keep it closer than 41-28, and also try not to injure Stockstill with any late hits.
North Texas is improving, but challenging for the conference title is a couple years away. MTSU isn’t just challenging for the conference title, they’re on their way to winning it.
FINAL SCORE: MTSU 40, North Texas 20