Start time: Saturday, September 16th at 2:30 pm Central
Location: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: Big Ten Network
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Series History: Minnesota leads the series 2-0, last game being played in 2014
Betting line: MTSU +10, O/U 51
The 2017 Middle Tennessee season so far has been the tale of two offenses. After a very rough start in week one versus Vanderbilt, the Blue Raider offense was able to get back in rhythm versus Syracuse last week on the road. Brent Stockstill was able to throw more efficiently thanks to better protection from his offensive line.
In order for Middle to compete in this game, that improvement has to continue into this weekend against the Golden Gophers. This is a Minnesota defense that has flexed its muscles in the first two games of the season. They are almost as good up front as Vandy and aren’t too bad in coverage either.
Again, as it has been every week so far, it will come down to protection in passing, because I expect them to shut down any form of running game Middle may have. If Stockstill can get time, I do believe this is a defense that he can pick apart and get the ball into the hands of Richie James, Ty Lee, and Shane Tucker. It all revolves around the quarterback and this is what Minnesota coach PJ Fleck had to say about MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill:
Expect the Minnesota defense to be ready for Stockstill and make is job as hard as possible.
On defense for Middle Tennessee, Minnesota will another big test for the run defense of this team. The Golden Gophers have two backs in Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith that are tough runners and don’t lose too many yards. Last week they combined for almost 200 yards on the ground and four touchdowns on 47 carries against Oregon State, so expect them to see it just as much this week.
I think the biggest key on defense for the Blue Raiders will be not over committing to the run. Vanderbilt was able to throw the ball all over this defense because they were so committed to stopping the run, they played soft coverage on the wideouts. If this defense can find the right balance between run and pass this week, I expect big things out of this game.
Let it be known that I have great respect for PJ Fleck’s coaching and think he has the chance to do something very special with Minnesota just like he did with Western Michigan. I think it will take time for them to get there, but they are already pretty strong. I think this game is just as tough for Middle Tennessee as the game against Vanderbilt. But on Goldy’s birthday going “Full Banana” at home, I think Minnesota is going to “Row The Boat” to a victory. That being said, I think it will be closer than many people may think.
Minnesota 24 MTSU 20