It’s a clash between a pair of mediocre teams from Conference USA between the painted lines down in the Sunshine State. The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are on the road as they make the trip to face the FIU Golden Panthers Saturday evening. Middle Tennessee clobbered Florida Atlantic 49-21 at home last Saturday in their most recent contest, winning outright as a 5.5-point underdog. FIU was pasted 40-6 on the road by UTEP in their last game, failing to cover the line as a 14-point underdog, last Saturday. The Blue Raiders own a 12-5 edge in the all-time head-to-head series and have won the last three matchups, including a 50-10 home triumph in the most recent matchup on November 13, 2021.
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Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Seek Third Straight WinMiddle Tennessee won its second straight and third in the last four as they blasted Florida Atlantic last week. The Blue Raiders improved to 6-5 on the season and stand 3-4 in Conference USA as they look to even their conference mark with a triumph here. Against Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee never trailed as they scored 21 unanswered points after the game was even at seven. The Blue Raiders were up 28-14 at the half and didn’t let their lead drop below 14 the rest of the way. Middle Tennessee piled up a 615-356 edge in total offense, rolled up a 30-16 advantage in first downs and held a 33:36 to 26:24 margin in time of possession. For good measure, Middle Tennessee forced a pair of turnovers while committing one in the game.
On the season, the Blue Raiders are 35th in the FBS in passing offense as they average 266.1 yards per game through the air. Middle Tennessee stands just 106th among the 131 FBS teams to play so far this season in rushing offense as they average 119.3 yards per game on the ground. The Blue Raiders are 64th in scoring offense with an average of 28.8 points per game. Middle Tennessee struggles defensively as well, ranking 89th in scoring defense by allowing 28.1 points per contest. Chase Cunningham is 254 of 378 passing for 2,641 yards with 19 touchdowns against nine interceptions plus 111 yards and four scores on the ground this season. Nicholas Vattiato (30 of 46, 293 yards, INT), Preston Rice (one of one, -3 yards) and Stone Frost (one of one, -4 yards) have seen limited action. Frank Peasant leads the team with 156 carries for 692 yards plus nine scores on the ground. Darius Bracy (43 carries, 166 yards, three TD) is next in line for the run game. Izaiah Gaithings is second on the team with 46 receptions for 413 yards plus two scores on the season. Jaylin Lane (54 receptions, team-high 769 yards, four TD) and Yusuf Ali (42 catches, 306 yards, two TD) are the other top options for the Blue Raiders. Zeke Rankin has hit all 41 extra point attempts and 10 of 11 field goal attempts with a long of 35 this season.
FIU Golden Panthers Hoping to Rebound After Blowout LossFIU dropped their third straight in blowout fashion as they were drubbed by UTEP on the road last week. The Golden Panthers come into this game 4-7 overall and 2-5 in Conference USA action on the year. Against UTEP, FIU trailed 14-0 after the opening quarter before getting buried 24-0 in the second to trail by a 38-0 count at the half. The Golden Panthers got on the board in the final quarter on a fumble return to avoid being shut out but their offense was stifled all day long. FIU was trampled 525-71 in total offense, gave up 29 first downs while picking up five and lost the time of possession by a 42:00 to 18:00 margin. Each team turned the ball over once with the Golden Panthers’ lone score coming via defense.
On the year, the Panthers are 103rd in the nation in passing offense with 201 yards per game through the air and 117th in rushing offense by grinding out 107 yards per contest on the ground. Florida International is 122nd in the FBS in scoring offense with an average of 17.8 points per game while they are 127th, or fifth to last in the FBS, in scoring defense by allowing 37.6 points per contest. Grayson James is 209 of 357 passing for 1,962 yards with 11 touchdowns against 11 interceptions plus 223 yards and three scores on the ground this season. Gunnar Holmberg is 14 of 20 for 103 yards plus a touchdown while rushing for 17 yards while Haden Carlson is 18 of 36 for 139 yards and an interception on the year. EJ Wilson Jr. is second on the team on the ground though he has only 256 yards plus two scores on 73 carries this season. Lexington Joseph (102 carries, 518 yards, five TD) is the second back in the system for coach Mike MacIntyre. Tyrese Chambers (51 receptions, 544 yards, four TD) leads the team in the passing game. Kris Mitchell (20 grabs, 293 yards, four TD), Jalen Bracey (37 receptions, 279 yards, two TD) and Rivaldo Fairweather (20 catches, 274 yards) each have at least 250 receiving yards for the Golden Panthers. Chase Gabriel has hit 19 of 20 extra point attempts and seven of 11 field goal attempts with a long of 49 this season.
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Full-Game Side Bet
While FIU has four wins to their credit, the most wins the school has had in a season since 2019, the fact remains that they are trending in the wrong direction right now. The Golden Panthers have been outscored by a combined 144-27 margin in their three-game skid. FIU has given up 24 scores through the air this season with four teams going over the 300-yard mark in the passing department against them. That plays right in Middle Tennessee’s wheelhouse after Cunningham threw for a career-high 448 yards last week in the win over Florida Atlantic. FIU is trending the wrong way while Middle Tennessee has been playing well. The Blue Raiders put the boots to FIU and ruin senior day in the Sunshine State.
Full-Game Total Pick
This season, Middle Tennessee has seen the over hit in six of their 11 contests heading into this week. The Blue Raiders have split their six games in relation to the total on the road this season. Middle Tennessee has seen the over go 6-0 in their last 6 games following a straight up win and 5-0 in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a losing home record. FIU has seen the under go 6-5 in their 11 games on the year. The Golden Panthers have seen the over go 3-2 in their home games this season compared to the under posting a 4-2 mark on the road. Seeing how FIU has been torched defensively lately, this game ends up over the total, mainly on the strength of Middle Tennessee’s offensive production.