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Middle Tennessee

College Football

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Unlike some of the other top teams in C-USA, Middle Tennessee State returns its coaching core with Rick Stockstill entering his 12th year. The Blue Raiders continue to churn out solid campaigns, yet haven’t won a bowl game since 2009 and still haven’t won a divisional crown in C-USA. With the needed pieces on the offensive side, this year could be as good as any for a chance to take the conference.

The offense is the lone hope for this team and could surpass last year’s 39.7 points per game. The problem will be filling holes at running back and along the offensive line where only two starters return. Running back will likely turn into a committee with Terelle West, transfer Maurice Gordon, Shane Tucker and stud wide out Richie James also getting touches. If they can somehow match last year’s 6.0 yards per carry behind I’Tavius Mathers, this offense will be set. That’s made possible because Brent Stockstill (31 TDs, 7 INTs, 63.3%) is entering his third season as the starting quarterback and all his favorite targets return with James (105 receptions, 1,625 yards, 12 TDs) at the head of them along with Ty Lee (699 yards, 9 TDs) and Patrick Smith (332 yards, 4 TDs). The passing game will be fine, but to improve the offense, the rushing attack can’t fall apart without Mathers.

There’s a similar problem on the defensive side as the Raiders lose their top five defensive linemen. From a group that gave up 35.8 points per game, new coordinator Scott Shafer will try and turn things around after coming over from Syracuse. The line is filled with young talent, while linebacker is the experienced unit led by Chris Melton (102 tackles). The secondary has experience as well with seniors Mike Minter and Alex Dale leading the unit. From a group that’s had its issues, it’s a wonder if they will hold up after a difficult non-conference slate.

Vandy, ‘Cuse and Minnesota aren’t elite teams, but they’ll be far from easy for the Blue Raiders, especially with two of them on the road. Because of that stretch, reaching double-digit wins will again be a difficult task. To take the C-USA, they can’t slip up before traveling to WKU and hosting ODU in the final two weeks. If all goes well, those two games will decide the East division. But if it’s a repeat of last year, then losses to teams like FAU or FIU could pop up.

With Stockstill and James leading the passing attack, the Blue Raiders are automatically in the running for the conference. But to take that next step, the defense needs to improve under Shafer. If not, expect a couple surprising losses for this team yet again. They have the third-best odds to win the conference at +800 (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to go with an over/under near seven wins.


2017 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Football Schedule

Sept. 2 vs. Vanderbilt
Sept. 9 at Syracuse
Sept. 16 at Minnesota
Sept. 23 vs. Bowling Green

Sept. 30 at Florida Atlantic
Oct. 7 vs. Florida International
Oct. 14 at UAB

Oct. 20 vs. Marshall
Nov. 4 vs. UTEP
Nov. 11 at Charlotte
Nov. 17 at Western Kentucky
Nov. 25 vs. Old Dominion

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