1st & 10: Scouting Middle Tennessee


Through two games, we really don’t know who the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are yet. They absolutely walloped Savannah State to open the season, but that’s what they were supposed to do. They then would lose to another lower-tier Big Ten team (just like the Tops) 35-24, but scored all 24 points in the second half, and limited the Gophers to just a touchdown. Unlike the Tops, they haven’t had two games of equal or better competition, so coming into the weekend, they’re pretty much a dark horse.

The Raiders are in the top 50 in the country in three major statistic areas – passing yards (50th – 273.0 per game) rushing yards (48th – 209.0 ypg) and points for (28th – 42.5), and come in 59th in the nation in points allowed (59th – 21). First and foremost, that 273 passing yard number scares me. We saw what Wes Lunt did, especially in the second half, against the Hilltoppers’ pass defense, and the Tops will had to make some major adjustments to make sure Austin Grammer doesn’t have a similar day. Grammer has thrown for 505 yards and a pair of touchdowns through two games, and threw for 255 yards against the Gophers (but, did throw three picks).

This will also be the first week the Hilltoppers face a true balanced offense, as MTSU employs a two-back system with Reggie Whatley and Jordan Parker who are either over 100 yards (Whatley has 149 on 23 carries) or just on the cusp (Parker has 98 yards on the same number of rushes).

MTSU also likes to balance the passing game, and have two receivers well over 100 yards in Marcus Henry (142) and Ed’Marques Batties (130), and both are averaging more than 10 yards per catch. Actually, out of the 10 Blue Raiders who have caught a pass this year, seven of them are averaging over 10 yards per catch. (Let’s just say this, Henry has only eight receptions on the year.)

The Tops and Raiders have long been very similar teams and schools, just like any good rivalry, and what we see on Saturday could very well be a tale of two halves. The Raiders came out flat in the first half last week while the Tops’ started strong, and then the roles reversed after halftime.

What are your mid-week keys to the game? Let us know below or on twitter @WaveTheRedTowel.