It's always nice to follow a team that has a breakout season. Last year, I selected the Temple Owls as a team to follow because of their ability to break out. They went 10-4 and had a better season than anyone could have ever imagined.
This season I chose to follow the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. MTSU went 7-6 last season after losing the Bahamas Bowl to Western Michigan. MTSU was 6-6 two years ago. The Blue Raiders were a team with potential to have a big season behind some very talented skill position players on offense.
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How has it gone for MTSU? Well, they are 8-4 coming into their bowl game, so it has already been an improvement on the past couple seasons. The Blue Raiders probably would have had at least one more win if it weren't for Brent Stockstill breaking his collarbone during the UTSA game. MTSU lost in double overtime at home to Western Kentucky by a point, and that was the toughest loss of the season. On the other hand, they won at Missouri, and it is always great to beat an SEC team, especially on their field.
MTSU went to the Bahamas Bowl last year, and this year they head to the Hawaii Bowl to take on the Hawaii Warriors. MTSU has to be doing something right to be chosen to go to the Bahamas one year and Hawaii the next!
This will be the last college football mid-major report for this year. It marks the conclusion of the sixth year of this report. How have the selections on the mid-major betting report done? Overall, the record was 32 wins and 24 losses with a gain of $1,460 heading into this season.
So far this year, the plays are 7-5, but we are slightly under water on the money, primarily because of our tough break on a big play back in October when terrible weather kept MTSU and Bowling Green from going over the total. Still, I've learned a lot throughout the year and I hope the readers have as well. One more game to get to!
It has been a while now, but MTSU finished the season by winning a wild 77-56 game over Florida Atlantic. You might think I was quoting a basketball score, but that was actually the score for the MTSU football regular-season finale.
MTSU racked up 757 yards of total offense in that game. The craziest part about that game is MTSU lost backup quarterback John Urzua to an injury early in that game, which left them playing in the wildcat for much of the game. Star receiver Richie James was a quarterback in high school, and he spent the most time at quarterback in the wildcat formation after Urzua was hurt. James ran the ball 22 times for 207 yards. He also completed 5 of his 6 pass attempts for 76 yards. Finally, he caught four passes for 120 yards. James is one of the best players MTSU has ever seen come through its program, and this game showed his versatility.
Overall, MTSU ran for 495 yards against Florida Atlantic. They averaged 8.7 yards per carry. I'Tavius Mathers ran 18 times for 213 yards and three touchdowns. The MTSU defense struggled to stop the run against Florida Atlantic. The Owls ran for 299 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
MTSU won this game in large part thanks to the turnover differential. Florida Atlantic turned it over four times. MTSU didn't turn it over at all.
Notes of Interest
-The big news for this one is that Brent Stockstill will reportedly play in this game. In fact, he told local newspapers that he is 100 percent sure he'll be playing. Interestingly, his father, who also happens to be the coach, said the final decision on Brent playing will not be made until right before kickoff, though he also sounded optimistic. The oddsmakers did not put a line on this game until word came out about this status. Brent Stockstill is a difference maker, and it appears the Blue Raiders will have him on the field for this one.
-Remember before the year when so many wondered if MTSU would be too one-dimensional on offense? I was one of them, in fact. I knew Stockstill and the passing attack would be tremendous, but the big surprise is how great Mathers and the running game for MTSU has been. MTSU is averaging 6.05 yards per carry on the year, which is good enough for fifth in the nation. That's truly amazing considering how bad they were on the ground. It's a sign of both Mathers being very good and the offensive line being much improved from last year.
-The biggest key to me about this game is MTSU's ability to keep their focus while in Hawaii. Of course, the team needs to take in some of the great things to do and see in Hawaii, but they also need to stay focused on the game and remember this isn't just a vacation. That can be hard for some teams to do, and it is one of the big reasons Hawaii has such a great home-field advantage. I'Tavius Mathers said, "We prepared really well, we know it is a business trip, so we have to stay focused and also enjoy the time in Hawaii outside of taking care of business."
MTSU vs. Hawaii College Football Odds
The line opened at MTSU -4.5, and money came in on the Blue Raiders right away. The line has jumped to MTSU -6.5 across the board. The posted total opened at 70 points and has now risen to 71. It will be interesting to see how much the side and total move here since the line was opened so late. The moves will likely be quicker in this one than in the games where the line has been out for several weeks.
MTSU vs. Hawaii College Football Picks
Hawaii has struggled on defense all year long. The Warriors defense is allowing 6.30 yards per play on the year, which puts them among the 25 worst defenses in the country. The major weakness for Hawaii is their secondary. Opponents are averaging 8.0 yards per pass attempt on Hawaii this year. MTSU should be able to move the ball consistently on this Hawaii defense.
There's no doubt that MTSU is the better team here, but playing in Hawaii is a tough thing to handicap. Additionally, the MTSU run defense has struggled throughout the year. They allowed 207 yards or more on the ground in 7 of their last 11 games. Hawaii's offense has improved with Dru Brown at quarterback, and I think Hawaii can have success offensively as well.
I'm going to make a three unit play on over 71 points in this one. I think we see a shootout here. This bowl game has a history of high-scoring affairs, and I think this one will follow that trend. We'll be back to follow another college football team next season!
Pick #227: MTSU/Hawaii over 71 (3 unit play)
Season Results- 7 Wins 5 Losses (-$260)
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