Middle Tennessee State (3-2, 2-0 C-USA) vs FIU (3-2, 1-0 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 13, 7:30 PM
TV: beIN Sports (Mike Gleason & Brett Romberg)
Radio: WAXY 790 The Ticket (A.J. Ricketts & Kenny Kelly)/ 99.3 The Beat/WGNS 1450/101.9 (Middle Tennessee State Radio Network)
Location: Riccardo Silva Stadium, University Park, FL
Betting Line: FIU -2.5 O/U 57.5
All-Time Series Record: MTSU leads series 9-4 (MTSU won last match-up 37-17 in 2017)
FIU is coming off of a bye week which was preceded by a 55-9 win over FCS Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
Butch Davis and the Panthers have a chance to take sole possession of first place in the C-USA East division with a win over the Blue Raiders. They’ve never led their division this late in the season since joining the conference in 2013.
In order for that to happen the Panther defense must be up to the task of stopping Brent Stockstill. Brent Guy’s unit has been a work in progress and for FIU to win the pass defense will have to improve.
The answer for combating the Blue Raider quarterback may be to keep him off the field.
FIU has a decided edge in the run game averaging 185 yards per contest on the ground, while MTSU has allowed an average of 204.2 rushing yards this year, including 741 yards combined in the past three games.
Expect to see a heavy dose of Shawndarrius Phillips, Napoleon Maxwell and D’Vonte Price on the ground for the home team.
Also, the offensive line is starting to take shape with Jordan Budwig having a solid season at left guard and versatile junior Shane McGough has earned a starting spot at right guard.
James Morgan is playing the best football of his career since coming transferring to FIU in the summer. However, what has to improve is the start of games for the offense.
FIU has been been decidedly better in the second and third quarters compared to the first. If they start slow against MTSU, Stockstill is talented enough to put the FIU behind quickly.
Two weeks ago it looked as if MTSU was heading towards missing a bowl game for the first time in four seasons.
They were coming off of losses against No. 3 Georgia and Vanderbilt in which they looked completely over-matched and were starting at contest versus pre-season C-USA favorite Florida Atlantic.
What followed was a come from behind victory over FAU and a road victory over a talented Marshall team.
While the season has certainly taken a different turn for Rick Stockstill and the Blue Raiders, they head into Miami still looking to prove that the last two weeks weren’t a fluke.
It starts and ends with the play of their dynamic quarterback in Brent Stockstill.
MTSU will need to establish the passing attack early against an FIU team that has had trouble with talented quarterbacks this season.
Expect to see Stockstill on the move with designed roll-outs, and a usage of the intermediate passing game similar to the way Indiana’s Peyton Ramsey was in week one versus the Panthers.
While MTSU’s run game statistically has been sub-par, expect them to run the ball to at least keep the defense honest.
The Blue Raiders defensively have to pressure James Morgan early. It’ll be up to players like D.Q. Thomas and Khalil Brooks to rattle Morgan and put FIU in third and long situations.
This should be the most exciting contest of the C-USA schedule for week seven. Brent Stockstill is undefeated in his career against FIU and the Panthers haven’t defeated MTSU since 2014. Both teams come in looking to prove that they’re contenders in a wide open East division. While the Blue Raiders head into Miami on a roll, I believe that the run game of FIU will be too much of a struggling MTSU run defense. FIU 30 MTSU 23