Staffers give their predictions for Middle Tennessee's Week 6 matchup
USA Today Sports
Following a disappointing showing on the road at Florida Atlantic, the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee return to Murfreesboro for this years Homecoming game against the Golden Panthers of Florida International.
After facing off against Conference USA's more infamous hires of the past offseason, Rick Stockstill will prepare his troops to welcome another prolific addition to the conference ranks in Butch Davis.
Davis has the Golden Panthers (3-1, 2-0) in the drivers seat of the East Division of CUSA, and adding a win against MT would solidify FIU as the team to beat this year.
As for the staff, only one perfect picker remains. GoMiddle.com publisher Casey Bowman fell from the ranks of perfection last week, leaving only Garrett Hinners with an unblemished record on the year.
Let's see who the guys have pegged to win this weeks matchup:
GARRETT HINNERS (5-0) -- MIDDLE TENNESSEE 21, FIU 30
Homecoming is suppose to be a time where your school schedules an easy opponent for a celebration weekend. Middle Tennessee hasn't done this all that much in recent years, and they haven't faired well in Homecoming games either.
But when the schedule was released I admit this game was dubbed a win by me. Injuries have tempered those expectations and, in my opinion, this Homecoming will be no different from the recent ones.
With Brent Stockstill still sidelined for the foreseeable future and no running game to speak of, Middle is done.
There's just no offense. And this defense isn't even among the best in their own conference. Thats a recipe for disaster. We knew this season was going to ride or die on Stockstill staying healthy, so it is what it is. Butch Davis has FIU rolling right now, and I don't envision MT stopping that train this week.
CASEY BOWMAN (4-1) -- MIDDLE TENNESSEE 24, FIU 17
With my perfect season gone, I'm ready to get back on track. Coincidentally, so are the Blue Raiders.
After that abysmal showing at FAU, I do expect MT to bounce back this week. I'm not as confident as the bookies in Vegas (MT is a -9.5 favorite), but I'm confident nonetheless.
I think this might be the week we see a halftime change at QB, too.
The way I see this game shaking out - I envision FIU jumping out to an early one or two possession lead. The Blue Raiders will drive, but leave points off the board, ultimately forcing the hand of Rick Stockstill and the coaching staff to turn the reigns over to QB Kyle Banks, who then leads the Blue Raiders to a come from behind victory in front of a raucous Homecoming crowd.
Okay...that's probably not how this goes down (but if it does you heard it here first), but I do expect MT to find a better balance in this one going up against a defense that hasn't performed particularly well against the pass or the run so far this season.
Look for a late score from the Blue Raiders to put this one away. No predictions on attendance, though...
MATT DOSSETT (2-3) -- MIDDLE TENNESSEE 23, FIU 34
I am backing off and rescinding my prediction for MT’s overall record. Before even one ball was snapped, I pegged the Blue Raiders to waltz their way to 9-3 and be right in the thick of the conference USA East division championship hunt. Certainly injuries have thrown a wrench in MT’s season.
FIU (3-1, 2-0) will make the trek up up north to Murfreesboro to face a 2-3 MT squad. I just don’t have enough confidence to say definitively that MT will play their A game and win. It is certainly possible, but based off what I’ve seen so far I just do not know. In my opinion, it all boils down to which team will have the most effective offense. FIU is well balanced. Quarterback Alex McGough rights the ship and has thrown the ball 116 times with a completion rate of 60 percent.
The Panthers rely on a slew of guys that can run the ball. They have five guys who have carries. Even McGough has taken off 27 times. Alex Gardner has over 60 carries and Shawndarrius Phillips has over 30 carries, but they have a game breaker, Napoleon Maxwell, who averages 11 yards a carry.
FIU will spread the rock in the passing game as well. They have 10 guys who have caught the ball this season. I know I sound like a broken record week in and week out, but John Urzua has to be a catalyst if MT is going to get the victory.
Anyway, FIU wins.
AUSTIN LEWIS (2-3) -- MIDDLE TENNESSEE 17, FIU 31
It’s been a pretty simple formula so far this season:
No Brent. No Richie. No victory over Florida International this weekend.
Injuries to the two most valuable Blue Raiders have revealed a disturbing lack of talent and depth for a head coach in his twelfth season.
Quite frankly, all signs point to the Blue Raiders reliving the nightmare that was the 2011 season when Middle Tennessee finished the season 2-10. I expect the drive-killing turnover trend to continue this weekend, and my money is on quarterback John Urzua throwing at least one - and probably two - interceptions on Saturday.
Combined with an inconsistent rushing attack, the Blue Raider offense will be unable to move the ball and the defense will be too exhausted to stop the Florida International offense. FIU wins this one in Murfreesboro, 31-17.