The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (4-5, 3-2) will travel to the Sunshine State as they take on the Florida Atlantic Owls (2-7, 2-4) in Conference USA East Division action Saturday afternoon. Middle Tennessee has taken the last seven meetings between the schools, including a 35-34 win at home on November 22, 2014 in the most recent matchup. Florida Atlantic covered the line in that game as a 7 point underdog.
Middle Tennessee pulled an upset with a 27-24 triple overtime win over Marshall last week. Florida Atlantic lost for the fourth time in five games as they were dropped 35-19 by Western Kentucky on the road. This one kicks off at 12:00 pm ET from the FAU Football Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida and will not be televised nationally. Middle Tennessee is currently a 5.5 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 58.5 points.
Middle Tennessee led 17-7 entering the fourth quarter but allowed Marshall to tie the game and force overtime. In the third overtime, Cody Clark’s 46 yard field goal proved to be decisive as the Blue Raiders escaped with the upset win. Middle Tennessee outgained Marshall 554-515 but lost the first down battle 30-27; the Blue Raiders overcame three turnovers while forcing only one Marshall miscue in the game. The Blue Raiders lost the time of possession battle 31:38 to 28:22 in the contest but managed to pull it out in the end.
The Blue Raiders are 16th in the nation in passing with an average of 315.3 yards per game while they average 137.4 yards (107th in the nation) per game on the ground. Middle Tennessee is averaging 33.8 points a game, which is tied for 44th in the nation in scoring offense. The Blue Raiders are tied for 88th in the nation in scoring defense as they allow 30 points per game. The Blue Raiders are pretty balanced as far as plays go: they have had 359 pass plays and 350 rushing attempts this season. Brent Stockstill is 232 of 351 for 2,798 yards with 21 touchdowns against six interceptions. Jordan Parker is second on the team with 69 carries for 337 yards and four scores; Shane Tucker (66 carries, 180 yards), Desmond Anderson (81 carries, team high 364 yards, 4 TD) and Jeremiah Bryson (46 carries, 198 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 (73 receptions, 839 yards, 4 TD) or Ed’Marques Battles (64 receptions, 778 yards, 12 TD) are going to be involved in the play. That duo has combined for 137 of the 236 receptions Middle Tennessee players have made this year; Terry Pettis is next in line with 24 receptions for 513 yards and three scores. Cody Clark has hit all 38 extra points and eight of 11 field goals this season.
Florida Atlantic was up 7-0 after one quarter and was within 14-13 at the half but couldn’t hang on in the second half as they were outscored 21-6 by the Hilltoppers. The Owls were outgained 509-359 and lost the first down battle 25-23. Florida Atlantic did force the lone turnover in the game and won the time of possession battle 31:40 to 28:20 in the contest but couldn’t contain Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty, who threw for four touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass for the fifth Hilltoppers score.
The Owls put up 220.2 yards per game through the air (71st in the nation) and 164.2 yards per contest (77th in the nation) on the ground this season. Florida Atlantic averages 22.9 points per game but they rank tied for 88th in scoring defense as they allow 30 points per contest. Jason Driskel has completed 66 of 129 passes for 846 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions while Jaquez Johnson has hit 89 of 160 passes for 1,136 yards with six touchdowns and three picks while adding 207 yards plus a score on the ground. Greg Howell has stepped in as the team’s leading rusher with 110 carries for 514 yards plus three scores; Jay Warren (58 carries, 247 yards, 2 TD) is the normal starter when he’s healthy while Marcus Clark (22 carries, 114 yards) has done his fair share when given an opportunity. Trey Rodriguez has been solid lately with 63 carries for 387 yards and a team high five scores. Jenson Stoshak is the team’s leading receiver with 43 grabs for 586 yards and two touchdowns; Kalib Woods (23 receptions, 296 yards, 2 TD), Taylor Cameron (16 receptions, 233 yards) and Kamrin Solomon (16 catches, 305 yards, 2 TD) are in the mix as well. Greg Joseph is 21 of 21 on extra points and 13 of 20 on field goals on the year with a long of 47 yards.
Florida Atlantic is 2-5 ATS in their last seven after a straight up loss, 1-4 ATS in their last five after an ATS win, 1-4 ATS in their last five at home against teams with a losing road record, 1-6 ATS in their last seven at home and 1-6 ATS in their last seven on grass.
Middle Tennessee put together a big upset win last week and they need to build off that momentum instead of folding up shop against a struggling Florida Atlantic program. The Blue Raiders are winless on the road this season but Florida Atlantic hasn’t had much success at home on the year. Given the fact that the Owls have been dismal, give the points and back Middle Tennessee in this contest.