#67 Middle Tennessee 2018 Football Preview

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Overall Rank: #67
#5 Conference USA
 Middle Tennessee Logo
Middle Tennessee had to deal with quite a few injuries last year and that resulted in a disappointing 4-4 finish in Conference USA play. However, the team still won seven games overall, including a 35-30 victory over Arkansas State in the Camelia Bowl.
2017 Record: 7-6, 4-4
2017 Bowl: Camelia Bowl vs. Arkansas State (W 35-30)
Coach: Rick Stockstill (79-72 at Middle Tennessee, 79-72 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Franklin
Defensive Coordinator: Scot Shafer
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tavares Thomas, RB, 507 yards
Passing: Brent Stockstill, QB, 1,672 yards
Receiving: Ty Lee, WR, 955 yards
Tackles: Jovante Moffatt, S, 101
Sacks: Khalil Brooks, LB, 7.5
Interceptions: Reed Blankenship, LB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Brad Anderson, RB Terelle West, WR Patrick Smith, WR CJ Windham, OL Robert Behanan, OL Chandler Brewer, LB Darius Harris
Key Losses: QB John Urzua, WR Shane Tucker, LB DJ Sanders, CB Charvarius Ward, CB Michael Minter
Quarterback Brent Stockstill returns for what should be a very good senior season. He missed about half of last season with an injury, but he is a consistent quarterback and already is the program’s all-time leading passer. Stockstill will miss receiver Richie James, who also struggled through injuries last year, but there are plenty of other options returning. Ty Lee led the conference with 79 receptions. Patrick Smith and CJ Windham are also experienced receivers. The experience continues at running back where Tavares Thomas, Brad Anderson and Terelle West all return. Both Anderson and West missed time with injuries last year, but both proved to be productive when healthy.
The defense was very good last year, but they failed to create many turnovers despite the regular pressure on the quarterback. That pressure should continue with the line returning starters Walter Brady, Malik Manciel and Jahmal Jones. Most of the pressure though will come from outside linebackers Darius Harris and Khalil Brooks. Brooks led the squad with 7.5 sacks and 17.0 tackles-for-loss. One major concern is at inside linebacker where freshman Cody Smith is expected to start. With so much talent and experience around him though, MTSU can cover for any growing pains. The secondary will once again be led by the team’s leading tackler, Jovante Moffatt. The strong safety recorded 101 tackles last year. With Reed Blankenship and Darryl Randolph returning starters as well, the secondary is in great shape, especially if they can create a few more turnovers.
The Bottom Line:
The big conference games come early for the Blue Raiders. After trips to a couple SEC teams with an FCS opponent sandwiched in the middle, MTSU hosts Florida Atlantic in their conference opener. Six days later they travel to Marshall to take on the Thundering Herd. To many, those are the two favorites in the conference. With that schedule it would not be too surprising if Middle Tennessee starts 1-4. However, this group can still win six or seven games even if they start slow.
Projected Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 142.3 (91st in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 251.1 (48, 3)
Total Offense: 393.4 (71, 6)
Scoring Offense: 25.5 (87, 8)
Rushing Defense: 134.1 (30, 3)
Pass Defense: 223.2 (64, 8)
Total Defense: 357.3 (35, 4)
Scoring Defense: 24.7 (46, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.92 (121, 13)
Sacks: 2.46 (31, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.92 (54, 7)