college football picks Middle Tennessee at Memphis 9-18-10

September 18, 2010


DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 18th, 7:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (61,000) — Memphis, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: Middle Tennessee 1-1, Memphis 0-0. Away Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Memphis 0-2. Neutral Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Conference Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Memphis 0-1. Series Record: Middle Tennessee State leads, 14-7-1.

GAME NOTES: The Memphis Tigers look to secure their first win of the season as they play host to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in a non-conference showdown on Saturday night.

Middle Tennessee was able to handle the Governors of Austin Peay, 56-33, on home turf last week. The Blue Raiders will be playing their first game on the road this Saturday in Memphis.

The Tigers, on the other hand, are playing their first game at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium this season. Memphis is coming off a 49-27 defeat at East Carolina.

Saturday’s matchup marks the 23rd time these squads will face off. Middle Tennessee holds a pretty solid advantage in the all-time series, 14-7-1. The Blue Raiders have taken the last two games in the series, including a 31-14 victory last season at home.

Middle Tennessee comes into this event boasting the number-one ranked offense in the Sun Belt as it leads the conference in rushing, scoring and yards gained. The Blue Raiders were able to rack up an amazing 654 yards in their 56-33 victory last week over Austin Peay. Middle Tennessee put forth a relentless rushing attack, garnering 353 yards on the ground, good enough to reach the end zone an impressive seven times on the day. Running back Phillip Tanner led the way with 127 rushing yards on 18 carries and three scores of his own. Quarterback Jeff Murphy was unable to reach the end zone in the rout, but still managed to throw for 301 yards on 23-of-36 passing, with one interception.

While the Blue Raiders are impressive on the ground offensively, the defense will sure needs to work on stopping the opposition’s rushing attack. Middle Tennessee has given up 405 rushing yards (202.5 yds/gm) and four touchdowns in its two games so far this season. The Blue Raiders are much more confident in stopping their opponents aerial attack, allowing an acceptable 187 yards passing per game and only two touchdowns. The defense allowed exactly 224 yards on each side of the ball against an inferior Austin Peay team, illustrating the difficulty the Blue Raiders have in stopping the run.

Quarterback Ryan Williams was the only true shining star to focus on after the Tigers fell by a score of 49-27 at East Carolina last Saturday. Williams finished the game with 293 yards through the air for three touchdowns on 18- of-25 passing. Williams only saw limited action in the first game of the season for Memphis against Mississippi State, throwing for 85 yards so it’s not written in stone that he will step up this weekend. The running game is sparse, rushing for a total of just 41 and 101 yards, respectively, in the Tigers’ first two games.

The Memphis defense has allowed 49 points in both of its defeats. The Tigers struggle in both aspects on the defensive side of things, but the bigger problem seems to lie against the opponents’ running game. Opponents have reached paydirt five times on the ground in two games against Memphis, as the Tigers allow an average of 185 yards rushing per contest. The passing defense isn’t much of an improvement, allowing 312 yards per game while having given up eight touchdowns. That tallies up to almost a thousand yards let up on defense thus far in 2010 (497 yds/gm). That kind of play, if not changed, will ultimately bury the Tigers in the Conference USA standings this season.

Things aren’t looking good for Memphis for its home opener, as one of the best offenses in the country heads into face a defense that needs serious help. Expect Middle Tennessee to roll to victory.

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