FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (20,000) — Miami, Florida.
Television: American Sports Network. Home Record: MT 4-1, FIU 2-5. Away
Record: MT 1-3, FIU 1-2. Neutral Record: MT 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record:
MT 4-1, FIU 2-4. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 6-3.
GAME NOTES: A couple of teams representing the East Division of Conference USA
get together this weekend as the FIU Panthers host the Middle Tennessee Blue
The Panthers, who began the week as one of four teams tied for fourth place in
the division with a record of 2-4 in league action, are coming off their
fourth straight defeat on Nov. 8 versus Old Dominion, 38-35, in Virginia. At
this stage of the season, FIU has a total of just three victories in 10
chances, one of those coming against Wagner (34-3), an opponent outside of the
Football Bowl Subdivision.
As for the Blue Raiders, they trail only undefeated and nationally-ranked
Marshall in the division standings, showing a mark of 4-1. The team has been
in action only once since topping UAB on Oct. 18, bowing to BYU the first of
this month in a 27-7 non-conference affair. Middle Tennessee, which has lost
two of the last three outings overall, has games against Florida Atlantic and
UTEP remaining on the regular-season schedule.
With respect to the all-time series between the squads, the Blue Raiders own a
6-3 edge, but are just 2-2 in games played in Miami. With a victory, Middle
Tennessee will not only be 3-0 in the last three games in Miami in the series,
the team will also become bowl eligible for the third year in a row and the
sixth time in nine seasons under head coach Rick Stockstill.
Despite being rather young at the quarterback position, the Blue Raiders still
have their sights set on another successful campaign and a shot at the
postseason. Taking the bulk of the snaps for the squad is Austin Grammer, a
sophomore who has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 223.6 ypg. He has
tossed a total of 12 touchdowns, three each to Marcus Henry and Shane Tucker,
while being picked off seven times in 262 attempts.
Henry is one of four players with at least 21 catches through nine games,
posting a team-best 31 grabs for 393 yards. Wanting to spread the wealth,
Grammer has a total of nine teammates who have reeled in at least 10 balls to
this point, and seven who have made it into the end zone.
On the ground, the Blue Raiders also have several options at their disposal.
Reggie Whatley may lead the group with 546 yards on 81 carries, leading to
four touchdowns, but there is also Tucker with a team-best six scores, while
Grammer and Jeremiah Bryson both have five rushing touchdowns to their credit.
If nothing else, Middle Tennessee is more than capable of keeping defenses on
With respect to the MT defense, a unit that is surrendering 31.3 ppg to rank
95th in the nation heading into the week, the squad has been picked on quite a
bit this year in allowing 461.8 ypg (109th). The secondary has been especially
suspect while permitting 287.7 ypg, ranking 114th in the FBS heading into the
Similar to the MT offense, the defense also calls on many players to lend a
hand, which is why T.T. Barber leads the group in tackles with just 58 through
nine outings. Linebacker Leighton Gasque has just nine stops to his credit
overall, and yet he leads the program with six sacks, and he has forced a pair
As for the Panthers, they scored 20 unanswered points between the second and
third quarters against Old Dominion the last time out, and even led by seven
points with just over a minute remaining in regulation, but the team gave up a
touchdown at the 1:05 mark of the fourth and then watched the Monarchs win the
game as time ran out on a 28-yard field goal, following an interception of an
Alex McGough pass.
McGough finished the contest just 8-of-13 for 132 yards and two touchdowns,
while being sacked twice. The signal caller also ran for 49 yards and a score,
while Anthony Samuel accounted for a team-best 137 yards and a TD on 25
rushing attempts in the disappointing setback.
Defensively, the Panthers managed to limit one of the nation’s top passers,
Taylor Heinicke to 315 yards and two touchdowns. That may not sound like much
of an accomplishment, but there are few passers in the country who put up the
type of yardage numbers that Heinicke is capable of from week to week.
For the most part this season, the FIU defense has performed rather well,
limiting foes to just 25.3 ppg to rank a respectable 55th in the country, but
the offense has been falling down on the job.
The squad is averaging a mere 299.6 ypg to rank 118th and it is both facets of
the attack, running and passing, that has come up lame for the group. The
squad is producing only 126.7 ypg on the ground, with the bulk of that coming
from Alex Gardner (72.6 ypg) who has seen action in only eight of 10 games and
could miss this weekend due to a shoulder injury.
McGough is averaging only 139.3 ypg through the air and has completed just
48.9 percent of his attempts for 11 TDs and seven INTs.
If Gardner is not able to go this weekend, the Panthers will be without one of
their top performers yet again. However, it might not make a difference either
way given how much time Middle Tennessee has had to rest and prepare for this
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 28, FIU 20