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Florida International Panthers vs Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders: Preview, Betting Line, Start Time, TV, Prediction

MTSU faces a must win game versus Florida International in a surprisingly big Conference USA East Division game. The winner is in great shape to go bowling this fall.

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Florida International-MTSU


Start Time: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, Oct. 17

Location: Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

TV: FSN

Streaming: Fox Sports Go

Radio: Florida International: here. MTSU: here.

Records: Florida International: 3-3, MTSU 2-4. MTSU leads the overall series 6-4.

Live Stats: here.

Betting Line: MTSU -9. Over/Under: 54.5.

Florida International: The FIU Panthers offense is one of the least effective offenses in the nation with a success rate of only 38.0%. The Panthers are finishing drives at a rate of 5.13 points per trip inside the 40 (#46 nationally). The rush offense ranks in the bottom six with an S&P+ of 78.7, as well as ranking #121 with a 32.7% success rate. Alex Gardner (94/361/4TD) and QB Alex McGough (35/189/0TD) are the only real running options for an offense that averages 128.3 yards per game on the ground.

The Panthers are more successful in the passing game with a success rate of 42.1%, good for #52 nationally. The IsoPPP (#112/1.29) and S&P+ (#118/78.2) are among the worst nationally. McGough (135-206/1,399/12TD) has steadily improved, but has struggled in connecting with leading receiver Thomas Owens (30/392/6TD) and tight end Jonnu Smith (21/152/2TD). The duo have caught 51 of a possible 86 targets on the year. Overall, the Panthers are averaging 255.2 yards per game in the air.

Despite a success rate allowed (43.8%) that is worse than the national average, the Panthers are among the best at stopping the run. The reason for that success is a #16 ranked IsoPPP of 0.89. Teams get yards, but are unable to break for long runs very often. A stuff rate of 22.2% certainly does not hurt the cause.

The pass defense has been spotty at times, but is also among the best in limiting chunk yardage plays with an IsoPPP allowed of 1.28 (#22 nationally). Overall, the Panthers give up only 363.7 yards per game of total offense.

Players to watch on the FIU defense include: Anthony Wint (45 tkl, 4 tfl, 1 int), Richard Leonard (36 tkl, 1.5 tfl), and Mike Wakefield (21 tkl, 7 tfl, 2.5 sacks, 3 ff).

MTSU: MTSU is among the top teams nationally in IsoPPP (#29/1.35) and points per trip inside the 40 (#28/5.34). Running the football has been a bit of an issue with a success rate of only 40.3% and a stuff rate of 20.4%. The three headed monster of Jordan Parker (67/334/4TD), Jeremiah Bryson (44/186/3TD), and Shane Tucker (48/124/0TD) has been solid. Bryson’s availability is up in the air due to legal issues coming up this week.

Passing the ball is where MTSU is most successful, led by quarterback Brent Stockstill (158-235/1,803/16TD). The redshirt freshman has been accurate to the tune of 67.2% with two receivers getting the brunt of his targets. Ed’Marques Batties (49/572/9TD) and Richie James (49/588/3TD) combine for 59.2% of all targets, 64.3% of all receiving yards, 75% of all receiving touchdowns, and 62.0% of all catches. Overall, the Blue Raiders average 307.2 yards per game in the air.

MTSU has struggled on defense all season long with the #88 ranked IsoPPP allowed (1.30) and #80 success rate (42.6%). The Blue Raiders will allow teams to run the ball at nearly a 50% success rate, 4.1 yards per carry. Chunk plays are limited in the run game, but a stuff rate of only 14.1% makes for a long day defending the run.

While more successful as a defense versus the run (39.2% success rate allowed), the pass defense does give up lots of big plays. It is a bit of risk/reward for the Blue Raiders as the defense has 10 interceptions on the season, led by Jeremy Cutrer (22 tkl, 2 tfl, 2 int) with three.

Players to watch on the MTSU defense include: T.T. Barber (40 tkl, 5 tfl, 3 sacks), Cutrer, Kevin Byard (35 tkl, 1 tfl, 2 int), and Trey Wafford (24 tkl, 3 tfl, 2 sacks).

Prediction: The Panthers head into this game with a chance to go on a real roll in Conference USA play. They haven’t been dominated at all this season, but the offense has not looked good. MTSU comes into this game desperate to salvage a once promising season. Between this game being a home game and the absolute desperation for a win, I think the Blue Raiders pull this one out. MTSU 24, Florida International 21.