The Conference USA Championship is a rare Game in which the teams played the previous week. Middle Tennessee had to win to get in this spot and that also meant it got to host this Game. The Blue Raiders were -1.5 point home favorites with an over/under of 45 as of Wednesday.
Just last week, UAB was a -3 point road favorite in this matchup, but after Middle Tennessee won 27-3, it’d be hard to put the home team as an underdog again. One could say that UAB didn’t put its best foot forward as it wasn’t in a must-win situation last weekend, but it’s hard to ignore what happened in the Game. After driving for a field goal on the opening drive, the Blazers couldn’t do anything offensively and were sacked seven times the rest of the way. That eventually led to -1 rushing yards and 90 passing yards on 9-for-24 passing. On the other end, Middle Tennessee did what was needed as Brent Stockstill went 22-of-29 for 261 yards and the ground Game went for 133 more.
UAB had an impressive season, but outside of the win at Louisiana Tech, wasn’t really challenged on the road. As for MTSU, it played in an arguably better division and had better wins including one at Marshall. This Game will undoubtedly be closer than that first one and it’s almost a pick ‘em. UAB won through its defense that allowed just 16.7 points per Game, yet it didn’t show much against Stockstill last week. And while the Blazers gave up seven points or less six different times, that’s also due to playing in the C-USA because they gave up 47 points to Coastal Carolina and more than 20 points to the better teams it played in the conference.
This Game could again fall on the shoulders of the senior Stockstill and that’s not a bad thing for the Blue Raiders. He posted solid numbers completing 71.2% of his passes for 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions and that includes a dominant three-Game stretch to close the season. One of those was a 30-for-33 performance at Kentucky in a 34-23 loss. With top wide outs Ty Lee and Patrick Smith, it’ll be hard to bet against this passing Game at home. And while the rushing attack hasn’t been as efficient, rushing for 3.7 yards per carry behind Chaton Mobley, that could still be enough in this Game. They had a couple big gains last weekend and if you throw those in along with Stockstill, that should lead to at least 20 points.
The difference in the second matchup is that UAB’s offense should find more success. Middle Tennessee had a decent defense this season, yet was far from dominant giving up 4.1 yards per carry and 25 points per Game. Assuming their pass rush doesn’t wreak havoc again, UAB should put points on the board behind A.J. Erdely and company. Erdely returned from a shoulder injury last weekend and things didn’t work out, though he hasn’t been much better than backup Tyler Johnston as the two have combined for 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The UAB offense is centered on running back Spencer Brown, who has 993 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he dealt with an injury last Game and Jarrion Street took his spot, gaining 40 yards on 12 carries.
Given what happened in the last meeting, it’d be hard to go against Middle Tennessee. There’s clearly a path for UAB to win and that’s why it was favored in the first matchup, but if the running Game has trouble again, it’ll be difficult for the road team to win.
The Blazers are 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine Games following a straight-up loss and 7-3 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Blue Raiders are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home Games and have covered their last five overall. The under has hit in the last Four meetings between these schools and the home team has covered in the last Four.
Our Pick – Last week, Our model had UAB winning straight up by 1 to 4 points. This week, thanks to a 27-3 defeat, the model now has Mid Tenn on top by 3.
We have to expect a very different Game than the one that played out last week. This Game opened at UAB +3 and is now just +1. We agree with the move and as of this write up, we’re late to the party. So, we’ll lean towards UAB +1. A move back to +3 makes this a stronger play.