FBS Football News
Middle Tennessee (2-5) at Tennessee (3-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 5th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Neyland Stadium (104,000) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: FSN. Home Record: Middle Tennessee 1-3, Tennessee 3-3. Away Record: Middle Tennessee 1-2, Tennessee 0-2. Neutral Record: Middle Tennessee 0-0, Tennessee 0-0. Conference Record: Middle Tennessee 1-3, Tennessee 0-5. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Volunteers and Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders take a break from their respective conference schedules to tangle in Knoxville this weekend.
A member of the Sun Belt Conference, Middle Tennessee is just 1-3 in league play and 2-5 overall. Two of the last three outings have resulted in defeat, including last weekend's 45-20 setback against Louisiana.
It is hard to believe that a proud Tennessee program owns an 0-5 record in the SEC, but that is indeed the case. Derek Dooley's team has clearly struggled this season, especially in recent weeks, as a four-game skid has resulted in a 3-5 overall record. Last weekend, the offense was completely shut down in a 14-3 loss to South Carolina.
Tennessee won its only previous meeting with Middle Tennessee by a 26-3 final back in 2002.
For a 2-5 football team, Middle Tennessee has been able to post some pretty impressive numbers. The Blue Raiders are scoring 29.9 ppg to go along with 462.4 total ypg, and they have been effective both running and passing the ball. The ground attack is paced by William Pratcher's 445 yards, and three players in all have run for at least 275 yards and two TDs. As for the passing attack, Logan Kilgore has completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 1,869 yards and 16 TDs with nine INTs. Malcom Beyah is tops among the club's receivers with 39 catches for 446 yards and six scores.
Last week against Louisiana, Middle Tennessee posted 415 total yards and moved the ball up and down the field as usual. The Blue Raiders, who converted 9- of-17 third-down attempts, got 239 passing yards and a TD from Kilgore, but he was intercepted twice, one of three turnovers committed by the squad in the game.
While the offense has been impressive, the Middle Tennessee defense has left plenty to be desired. The club is yielding 34.3 ppg and 440.3 total ypg, numbers that simply won't allow for many victories. The Blue Raiders have been weak against the run, as foes are racking up 218.0 rushing ypg at a clip of 4.6 ypc. As for the pass defense, Middle Tennessee has given up 222.3 ypg and has notched only three INTs in seven games. The fact that opponents are making good on 46 percent of their third down conversion attempts is concerning.
Louisiana had its way with the Blue Raiders a week ago, pounding out 338 rushing yards en route to 526 total yards. The fact that 6.3 rushing ypc were allowed has to be a concern for both coaches and players alike, as that success enabled the Ragin' Cajuns to keep possession for over 35 minutes.
In three games since losing starting QB Tyler Bray to injury, Tennessee has scored a grand total of 16 points. Matt Simms and Justin Worley have both seen time under center, and neither has thrown a TD pass while combining for five INTs. After a tremendous start to the campaign, wideout Da'Rick Rogers has been a non-factor, as he has been unable to build significantly upon his 41 catches for 643 yards and six scores. The Vols have leaned a bit more heavily on RB Tauren Poole, and while he has rushed for an even 500 yards to date, his two TDs and 3.7 ypc won't scare anyone.
Worley got his first start against South Carolina last week and had to be lifted in favor of Simms after completing a mere 10-of-26 passes with two INTs. Simms took better care of the ball but was largely ineffective, and Poole managed just 38 rushing yards on his 18 attempts. The Vols were just 2- of-14 on third-down conversion attempts.
While Tennessee is generating 22.4 ppg and 329.9 total ypg, the team is permitting 23.9 ppg and 357.1 total ypg to opponents. Considering the fact that they are allowing 4.3 yards per rushing attempt and 12.7 yards per pass completion, there is obviously room for improvement against both means of attack. The Vols have compiled nine takeaways and 13 sacks, so there hasn't been a wealth of impact plays made.
South Carolina made good on 10-of-18 third-down conversion attempts against Tennessee last week. The defensive effort by the Vols was actually solid, however, limiting the Gamecocks to 318 total yards, including 87 passing yards.
Tennessee has talent, but the SEC schedule has been brutal, and losses have hit the Vols' offense hard. Fortunately, they will be able to add a victory to the record this weekend, as Middle Tennessee has a defense ripe for the picking.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 27, Middle Tennessee 13
11/02 10:33:48 ET