College football rankings: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee Football 2017 Match Preview Prediction and Players: he Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders are No. 73 in the Orlando Sentinel 2017 preseason college football rankings. The Blue Raiders feature a potent offense, but the team needs to improve on defense in order to win a Conference USA title. Middle Tennessee relied on a prolific offense to overpower many opponents and win four out of its first five games. A double-overtime 44-43 loss to Western Kentucky and surprising later stumbles against Texas-San Antonio and Marshall cost the Blue Raiders a chance to contend for a Conference USA title. The team earned a bid to the Hawaii Bowl and fell 52-35 to hometown Hawaii.

Key losses: RB I’Tavius Mathers, WR Dennis Andrews, OL Josh Chester, OL Maurquice Shakir, OL Daniel Stephens, DT Shaquile Huff, DT Jimal McBride, DE Chris Hale, DE Steven Rhodes, CB Jeremy Cutrer. QB Brent Stockstill, OL Chandler Brewer, WR Richie James, WR Ty Lee, DE Walter Brady, LB Chris Melton, LB DJ Sanders, K Canon Rooker. Junior QB Brent Stockstill threw for an Middle Tennessee sophomore record 3,233 yards and 31 touchdowns last season despite missing the final three games of the regular season with a broken collar bone.

Middle Tennessee Football 2017 Match Prediction and Players

Middle Tennessee Football 2017

Stockstill, the Middle Tennessee coach’s son, will get help from junior WR Richie James, ranks first among active players nationally in receptions per game and receiving yards per game. He has caught passes for 100 or more yards in 14 of his first 26 games at Middle Tennessee. Last season, James had 105 receptions for a school record 1,625 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for a career-best 339 yards. Sophomore WR Ty Lee also returns after earning Freshman All-America honors last season. Lee played in all 13 games and had 11 starts for Middle Tennessee. He led the nation’s freshmen with 63 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns.

Weaknesses: Middle Tennessee boasts a potent offense that ranked No. 8 nationally in yards per game (517.7) last season, but the team needs to improve on defense in order to win a Conference USA championship. The Blue Raiders ranked No. 96 nationally out of 128 FBS teams in total defense (449.5 yards allowed per game and No. 109 in scoring defense (35.8 points allowed per game. Outlook: The Blue Raiders have been bowl eligible eight times during Rick Stockstill 11-year head coaching tenure and should reach the postseason again in 2017. Stockstill’s son is expected to put up big numbers on offense. Keeping him healthy and improving on defense will be the key to competing for a C-USA title.

Middle Tennessee Football 2017 Schedule and Prediction

James is also back for the Blue Raiders after a season when he tallied 105 receptions for 1,625 yards and 12 touchdowns while also stepping in and being untouchable as a Wildcat formation quarterback in Middle Tennessee’s 77-56 win over Florida Atlantic to end the regular season. He ran the football, threw passes and hauled in receptions for 403 yards in that contest.

Expect Middle Tennessee to go to the air quick and often in 2017 because the rushing attack will be down with I’Tavius Mathers and much of the 2016 offensive line gone. The threat of the quick pass and James on the outside will keep the defense honest, some growth is still needed in offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s system. Shane Tucker and Desmond Anderson return to the rushing attack for the Blue Raiders. While the passing game will remain a strength, the questions at running back and along the offensive front are worrisome.

Middle Tennessee Football 2017, The defensive front will be extremely young and inexperienced with seniors Justin Akins and Jahmal Jones even lacking experience despite moving into starting spots. There are a couple of playmakers back in linebackers Darius Harris and Chris Melton and a trio of safeties return, but given the lack of production and some noteworthy inexperience along the front, there is a reason to believe the possibility remains for a repeat of 2016 to occur.

Stockstill and his staff added some junior college pieces to the defense to help shore up some holes, but those players will have to come together quickly against an early-season schedule that includes a home game against Vanderbilt and road games at Syracuse and Minnesota to kick things off. Marshall visits the Blue Raiders for a Friday, Oct. 20, game on ESPN2. Source Link

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