Date: Friday, September 30, 2022
Time: 7:30 PM (ET), 6:30 PM (CT)
Location: Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium—Murfreesboro, TN
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: UTSA - Ticket 760 AM; MTSU - WGNS 1450 AM / 100.5 FM/101.9 FM
Betting Line: UTSA -4, O/U 63
UTSA (2-2), Conference USA. Last game: win over Texas Southern, 52-24
MTSU (3-1), Conference USA. Last game: win over No. 25 Miami, 45-31
UTSA leads series 3-1. Last game: UTSA won 27-13 in San Antonio, TX
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&C’s apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details
Conference USA sure seems to like the UTSA/Middle Tennessee matchup. For the third consecutive year the conference has scheduled these teams as their respective conference openers. Enjoy it, because it will be the last such matchup for the foreseeable future with UTSA scheduled to join the American Athletic Conference next year. With UTSA winning the last three matchups this will be the last opportunity MTSU will have to beat the Roadrunners to open conference play.
UTSA has played a strong out-of-conference schedule and has looked relatively impressive against their competition through four games. But while the play has been exciting the downside to facing elite out-of-conference teams is exhaustion and injuries, and the Roadrunners have felt the brunt of the injury bug hard.
The team has lost many contributors from last year’s championship squad and has had to bring in younger talent to fill in the gaps. Thankfully, those injuries have not impacted the strongest weapons in the Roadrunners’ arsenal: the skill positions.
Quarterback Frank Harris and wide receivers Zakhari Franklin, Joshua Cephus, and De’Corian “JT” Clark have remained healthy, which has resulted in dominant performances across the board. Harris currently leads the NCAA in total offensive yards—1472—and has already surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Meanwhile, the wide receiving trio of Franklin, Cephus, and Clark have combined for 1,222 yards, with each responsible for roughly a third of the total. Their play on the field has helped UTSA average 37 points and over 350 yards per game.
The concern, however, is that the injuries have forced UTSA’s offense to become one dimensional. The offensive line has suffered the bulk of the injuries, forcing redshirt sophomore Frankie Martinez to start at right tackle and sophomore Venly Tatafu to start at left tackle. These injuries have contributed to a lackluster running game. UTSA averages 3.8 yards per rushing attempt and has barely eclipsed 500 yards on the year. This has caused UTSA to rely more on its passing attack which, while elite, has hurt the Roadrunners’ ability to control the time of possession and slowly wear down opposing defenses.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
After a bad loss to open the season against James Madison, Middle Tennessee have brought their record to 3-1 on the season. Most notably, they earned their first ever win against a ranked opponent this past Saturday when they took down the #25 Miami Hurricanes. Head Coach Rick Stockstill joined the Underdog Pawdcast this week to discuss the victory.
“They deserve all the pats on the back, but you’ve got to be mentally tough and ignore the noise,” Stockstill said.
The Blue Raiders are not strangers to winning games. The issue, consistently, is consistency. Stockstill knows he needs his team to play at the level they have been for the last three weeks in order to show just how good they really are.
One of this team’s biggest strengths this year has been their defensive line. While Jordan Ferguson is held in high regard around college football for his skills, Quindarius Dunnigan and Zaylin Wood have turned in big performances as well. Those three names lead a productive MTSU defensive line. All together, MTSU has the best rushing defense in C-USA through four games, allowing 2.5 yards per carry and 93 rushing yards per game. The big test for them will be defending against UTSA’s passing game and the athleticism of Frank Harris.
On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Chase Cunningham is playing well, completing 70.8% of his passes through four weeks. He’s thrown for seven touchdowns with three interceptions. Last week in the win over Miami, Cunningham had three touchdown passes and an interception while throwing for 408 yards. The Blue Raiders are not exactly known for their rushing game, but running back Frank Peasant has been strong this season with a C-USA-leading six rushing scores and a solid 4.6 yards per carry.
There’s plenty to prove for both teams in this contest. While MTSU will get to celebrate the career of alum and current Tennessee Titan Kevin Byard, UTSA will walk away with the win on Friday night 34-28.