The Florida International Golden Panthers (3-3, 1-1) will travel to face the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (2-4, 1-1) in a Conference USA battle Saturday afternoon. Middle Tennessee has won six of the last nine meetings but it was Florida International that took a 38-28 win as a 5 point underdog at home on November 15, 2014 in the most recent meeting.
Florida International picked up their first conference win of the year and snapped a two game slide by bombing UTEP 52-12. Middle Tennessee dropped their third straight as they were crushed 58-28 by Western Kentucky on the road. Kickoff from Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tennessee is scheduled for 12:00 pm ET and the game will not be nationally televised. Middle Tennessee is currently a 9 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 54.5 points.
Florida International had a solid offensive performance as they outgained UTEP 518-267 in the contest and forced the lone turnover in the game. The Golden Panthers cashed that one in for a quick touchdown as it was a pick six that Jeremiah McKinnon took in for a score. Florida International jumped to a 35-0 lead before UTEP was able to crack the goose egg on the scoreboard and that easily overcame the safety they allowed in the fourth quarter.
The Golden Panthers are averaging 255.2 yards (38th in the nation) per game through the air and 128.3 yards (110th in the nation) per contest on the ground this season. Florida International scores 26 points a game and is tied for 21st in scoring defense as they allow 21.2 points per contest; all three of their losses have been by double figures. The Golden Panthers have thrown 221 passes while running the ball 193 times; Alex McGough is 135 of 206 for 1,399 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions on the season while ranking second on the team with 149 rushing yards. Alex Gardner leads the team with 94 carries for 361 yards plus four scores; he’s leading the team with 31 grabs for 313 yards. Anthony Jones (21 carries, 132 yards, 2 TD) and Anthon Samuel (26 carries, 101 yards, TD) are secondary options in the ground game. Thomas Owens is the team’s second leading receiver as he has 30 receptions for 392 yards and six scores; Jonnu Smith (21 receptions, 152 yards, 2 TD) and Ya’Keem Griner (20 receptions, 221 yards, 2 TD) are solid targets as well. Austin Taylor is 16 of 18 on extra points and five of six on field goal attempts this season with a long of 44 yards; his lone miss came from outside 50 yards.
Middle Tennessee was hammered early and often in their loss to the Hilltoppers as the score was 28-7 after one quarter and 52-14 at halftime. The Blue Raiders finished even in takeaway/giveaway as both teams committed a pair of turnovers; they were outgained 593-419 in the contest. Middle Tennessee was down 21-0 six minutes into the game and never recovered in the contest. The Blue Raiders were dominated in time of possession 35:07 to 24:53 and allowed Western Kentucky to score on eight of ten possessions in the opening half.
The Blue Raiders are 20th in the nation in passing with an average of 307.2 yards per game while they average 133.8 yards (106th in the nation) per game on the ground. Middle Tennessee is averaging 37 points a game but it’s important to note that 143 of their 219 points came in their two victories. The Blue Raiders are 80th in the nation in scoring defense as they allow 27.8 points per game. The Blue Raiders are pretty balanced as far as plays go: they have had 242 pass plays and 232 rushing attempts this season. Brent Stockstill is 158 of 235 for 1,803 yards with 16 touchdowns against three interceptions. Jordan Parker leads the team with 68 carries for 333 yards and four scores; Shane Tucker (48 carries, 124 yards) and Jeremiah Bryson (43 carries, 187 yards, 3 TD) are also in the mix on the ground. As a team, the Blue Raiders average just 3.5 yards per rushing attempt on the year. When Stockstill goes back to pass, it’s a safe bet to think that Richie James (49 receptions, 588 yards, 3 TD) or Ed’Marques Battles (49 receptions, 572 yards, 9 TD) are going to be involved in the play. That duo has combined for 98 of the 162 receptions Middle Tennessee players have made this year. Cody Clark has hit all 28 extra points and five of seven field goals this season.
Middle Tennessee is 9-4 ATS in their last 13 at home. Florida International is 7-16 ATS in their last 23 in October and 2-8 ATS in their last 10 after throwing for more than 280 yards in their last game.
The Golden Panthers put together a good game for three plus quarters but couldn’t close things out against Rice; that’s a trend that has happened repeatedly this season. Middle Tennessee was outplayed in their last contest but they have a prolific offense that can make things happen on a regular basis. The Blue Raiders will ride their way to a win with Stockstill throwing for 300 yards to win by double figures.