My revised predictions and thoughts on upcoming season...

sWiley

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After obtaining a copy of Phil Steele's new magazine and thoroughly reviewing it I wanted to discuss our upcoming season a bit further. College football is fast approaching with a 1pm kickoff on August 28th featuring Nebraska (-8.5) @ Illinois. I love Illinois in that one, by the way. This will be a two part post. First will be 6 games then I'll discuss the other 6 at a later time.

Let's jump right to it.

Middle Tennessee hosting Monmouth - No line has been posted yet but I am expecting something between 7 and 10 points here. Monmouth is a very legit FCS program that has won their conference two years in a row. They have an explosive offense averaging over 40 points per game last season. We are going to find out really fast if our D is improved or not. This team played a spring season going 3-1 and losing to eventual FCS National Champion Sam Houston State by 6 points, 21-15. They are the #12 ranked preseason FCS team entering this fall per Athlon sports. It's hard to find a ton of info on their program coming into this fall but I believe they return nearly every starter on both sides of the ball. This game is going to be an absolute war and our players better be prepared. What concerns me is Stockstill teams have traditionally played very poorly early in the season. I honestly cannot tell you the last time I watched our Blue Raiders play a Week 1 game and came away impressed. This is an honest coin flip in my eyes. I'm going to go with the home team here simply because we should win, but this is absolutely a game that we can lose as Monmouth will be rolling in here and laying it all on the line for an upset bid. If MT brings it's usual asleep-at-the-wheel Week 1 performance that we've been accustomed to in the past, Monmouth wins this game. I'm hopeful and optimistic that doesn't happen this time. Dearmon and Hockman will find a way to win as Shafer's defense pulls just enough stops to eek this one out. This is going to be a super exciting game to watch despite this being an FCS opponent. If you live in Murfreesboro or the surrounding areas and are debating on making our Week 1 game, you should go. It's gonna be a good one.
Win
MT 42
Monmouth 36

Middle Tennessee @ Virginia Tech - This is a tough game to read because I believe a lot will depend on how we fare in Week 1. Since I predicted a W I'm going to assume MT will be rolling in here with a bit of confidence. Virginia Tech gets an extended week here as they will play North Carolina on a Friday the previous week, so they get 1 extra day to prepare. They return 8 players on offense and 7 on defense which normally would be a lot of returning starters, but is actually fewer than most teams due to covid waivers. By comparison, MT returns 9 players on offense and 10 on defense. Virginia Tech will likely start Burmeister at QB who is an Oregon transfer and a true dual threat. Much like MT at the QB position, it will be an enigma early in the season as Burmeister didn't play much last year after being benched for Hendon Hooker who finished the year out and is now gone. This is actually a winnable game as Va. Tech has shown to be a vulnerable program to G5 programs. Liberty beat them last year, Furman nearly beat them in 2019, and Old Dominion ran wild on them in 2018. I think we'll at least get a competitive first half but ultimately it's too tough to predict a W here for our Blue Raiders.
Loss
MT 24
VT 40

Middle Tennessee @ UTSA - UTSA has become somewhat of a pre-season darling as they return tons of talent from last year's mildly successful squad. Phil has UTSA picked second in the West behind only league primadonna UAB. UTSA returns 21 total starters which is just crazy but you will see is a reoccuring theme for most teams this year due to covid waivers. 10 return on offense and 11 on defense. Key weapons Frank Harris (QB) and Sincere McCormick (RB) will form one of the most potent QB/RB duo's in the conference. Defensively they are a big, attacking defense with more talent than meets the eye. LB Harmanson will be playing on Sundays without a doubt and will lead UTSA's defense as one of the best in the league in my opinion. What swings this game for me, unfortunately, will be special teams. UTSA returns K Duplessis (1st team CUSA) and one of the best punters in the country in Lucas Dean. I believe this will be a tooth & nail, hard fought scrappy game. This will be both teams first conference game and goes down to the wire. It's 100% a swing game and really could go either way in my opinion. This will be a great game to watch between two very evenly matched teams, but home field advantage will tip the scales just enough. For some reason we are playing in San Antonio 2 years in a row which is BS. UTSA kicks the winning field goal as time expires, delivering MT football and it's fans a major gut punch.
Loss
MT 27
UTSA 29

Middle Tennessee @ Charlotte - This becomes a must-win game after the debacle in San Antonio. Our game with Charlotte will be played on a Friday night, so look for national TV to be in the picture. Will Healy returns a paltry 13 starters, 8 on offense and 5 on defense. Notably, Chris Reynolds Jr is back at QB so they will have some stability at QB. RB appears to be a free-for-all but Iowa State transfer Shadrick Byrd likely has the upper hand to start. We had previously beaten Charlotte 4 years in a row until they finally beat us in 2019 for their first win over MT football. I think that victory will be short lived as I do have the Blue Raiders winning this one and looking good doing so. I foresee a coming out party for our offense here as Charlotte looks a little small upfront. I think Dearmon gets them on tilt with the run/pass game and the Blue Raiders pile up the points here. MT returns home here 1-1 in the conference in preparation for a huge date with Marshall at home.
Win
MT 38
Charlotte 27

Middle Tennessee hosting Marshall - MT is 6-1 straight up in CUSA home openers. We do tend to play well for our first home conference game of the season, and we traditionally also play well when hosting Marshall. They return 15 total starters, 7 on offense and 8 on defense. Grant Wells is back at QB after tearing us a new a-hole last year. Marshall traditionally is very difficult to run the ball on and this year their defensive line will be the strength of their defense. They return 3 starters + Penn St. transfer Shane Simmons who will be hell up front to handle. Marshall is as always loaded with talent and looking to make a push for the CUSA crown. Big X factor here is new head coach Charles Huff who replaced Doc Holliday after he was railroaded out of town. Marshall gets Appy St. on a Thursday the week prior to our game so they will have extra time to prep for MT here. We all know what our games with Marshall like are at home. Usually one possession, back and forth, down to the knitty gritty. Whichever team makes the fewest mistakes will win here. This is yet again another coin flip as CUSA really does have some great parity throughout the league. I'm hopeful we will be ready to roll after winning @ Charlotte, and I'm going to tip this game our way because of home field, but this could just as easily be a loss as a win. Redshirt Freshman QB Grant Wells makes 1 too many mistakes for his team to overcome.
Win
MT 35
Marshall 24

Middle Tennessee @ Liberty - What a fun match up. In theory this should be a fun, close game that MT should eek out. But ever since Liberty brought in Hugh Freeze they have resembled more of an SEC team than a G5 program. This year will be no different. Liberty returns dark horse Heisman contender Malik Willis Jr at QB (Auburn transfer). Willis ran for a Liberty QB record 944 yards last season along with 14 rushing TD's, and he didn't even play every game due to injury! He boasted a 20-6 TD/INT ratio through the air with 64.2% completion percentage. He is truly a complete dual threat QB that forces you to cover every inch of the field. I do not envy Shafer's job and game plan for this one. This will be the ultimate test for our defense and our athletic secondary and linebackers. As a team Liberty returns 20 total starters including all 11 starters back on their offense which accounted for 38.1 points per game and 482 yards per game last year. Hugh Freeze has done a remarkable job at Liberty and will be considered as a Coach of the Year candidate after the 2021 season and surely off to a better gig. Liberty has a legit chance at going undefeated this year with their toughest games being @ Ole Miss and @ UAB. As much as I would love to see our Blue Raiders win here, I just can't do it. I'm hopeful that we can be this year's Liberty with Hockman and Amir Rasul having breakout years, but that's more the homer in me talking and wishing vs. what's likely to happen. I do think this will be closer than most expect it.
Loss
MT 37
Liberty 45


To be continued....
 
Last edited:

crposton

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I like this. Especially the acknowledgment that Monmouth is truly a quality opponent for us. Top tier FCS teams are really good football teams. The main problem with predicting how we are going to be this year is all the new faces on offense. On paper they seem to be positive, but paper doesn’t matter. Our weakest parts on offense should be upgraded with the new OC and additions to the o-line and RB. I am hoping an improved offense results in an improved defense. Hard to expect a defense to perform when they are on the field all game. To me if Hockman and the additions on the o-line work out we could have a really good year. If not it will be another long season.
 
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SpaceRaider

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I like this. Especially the acknowledgment that Monmouth is truly a quality opponent for us. Top tier FCS teams are really good football teams. The main problem with predicting how we are going to be this year is all the new faces on offense. On paper they seem to be positive, but paper doesn’t matter. Our weakest parts on offense should be upgraded with the new OC and additions to the o-line and RB. I am hoping an improved offense results in an improved defense. Hard to expect a defense to perform when they are on the field all game. To me if Hockman and the additions on the o-line work out we could have a really good year. If not it will be another long season.
It really hasn't matter much who the OC under CRS or QB for that matter. Traditionally MT under Stock as head coach has always started out of the gate slow, sluggish. It would not surprise me if MT loses to another FCS or not win a single game until well into October. I hope Dearmon makes a difference, but it may not be enough to get this team to or even over .500. At this point, all I want is a new head coach and that would be more pleasing to me than a 7-5 record and an appearance in some no name bowl somewhere where I can't drive to.
 

sWiley

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So the bye comes half way through the season. We play 6 games, get our bye, then pick it back up @Uconn on the road. I think we'll enter the bye 3-3 (2-1) but possibly 2-4 if we drop Monmouth in the opener. First 6 games were tough to predict because all of the teams we face outside of Va. Tech are about the same as us. I really believe so many of our games this year will come down to running the ball and winning the turnover battle. When teams that are evenly matched face each other those things so often determine who wins, along with special teams of course.

Middle Tennessee @ Uconn - Another Friday game here so look for national TV exposure. We get a bye week before this match-up while Uconn is hosting Yale. Uconn will be the easiest opponent on our schedule but as MT fans we know that doesn't mean much. They return 7 starters on both sides of the ball. This game is really tough to read because there's not much that indicates Uconn will be worth a flip. They did bring in a big time true freshman dual threat QB, Tyler Phommachanh. Highly rated and a major dual threat. It's possible he will be starting this deep into the season combined with senior RB Kevin Mensah and 4 star Miami transfer Robert Burns. I think Uconn will be able to move the ball with their weapons and this ends up in a shoot out. I really hope we are focused and don't overlook this game coming off a bye week. Both teams will be starving for a win at this point in the season so look for a competitive, hard fought battle. Should be another great game to watch.
Win
MT 44
Uconn 38

Middle Tennessee hosting Southern Miss (Homecoming) - Now we hit the back end of our season, into the fall months, 5 straight conference games to close the season. Praying we are healthy and in a competitive position to make a push for the East. Have to hope we can control our destiny with only 1 conference loss at this point. We are very fortunate to avoid UAB through the regular season as they're clearly the best team in the league. Focusing in on Southern Miss, this is homecoming! At this point in the season all the teams in the country are starving for wins and entering conference play. This is only our 4th meeting w/ Southern Miss and we've won all 3 prior. Southern Miss returns 17 starters, 8 on offense and 9 on defense. This is a big, physical team. At the QB position Southern Miss is oozing with talent. Highly rated Trey Lowe will likely get the nod, but behind him is Louisville transfer Tee Webb and two very highly rated younger guys in Ty Keyes and Jack Walker. Southern Miss has a very good problem to have at the QB position. Frank Gore Jr. returns at RB with high goals of being the top RB in CUSA, and with his pedigree it's very possible he might be once the season comes to an end. Defensively Southern Miss runs a hybrid 3-4 defense. Look for them to be flying all over the place trying to make plays. If we are to have any success against their D we will need to establish the run and force them to be honest. I'm hopeful we can win this game but Southern Miss is a bit of a dark horse for me this year in CUSA. They draw a pretty tough schedule in the conference, and have to play Alabama in OOC, but I like what new head coach Will Hall brings to the table and his swagger. We should win this game but I have a bad feeling about this one.
Loss
MT 27
Southern Miss 35

Middle Tennessee @ WKU - This becomes a must-win game after the season appears to be slipping away. No love lost here with these goat fukkers. WKU only returns 10 total starters, 6 on offense and 4 defense but they bring in an absolute LOAD of transfers including the-already-annointed Bailey Zappe. Bailey is listed as 1st Team CUSA QB on Phil Steele's list without ever throwing a pass in CUSA. That's the kind of expectations this kid has already created, and it's hard to disagree with the assessment and hype. Zappa was an absolute star @ Houston Baptist and has real NFL potential. He's @ WKU because WKU brought over the Houston Baptist OC, so Bailey will have his same OC that he's had. In his 6 career starts against FBS competition at Houston Baptist, he completed 63% of his passes for a 16-2 TD/INT ratio. Stepping up to the FBS level for him will not be an issue at all. At RB and WR WKU brings in transfers and with their returning players now have more experience and talent than last year. Defensively, they return only 4 starters but have loads of talent on that side of the ball. They might struggle a bit early in the season but by this game they will be experienced and talented. Special teams wise WKU has one of the best K/P duo's in the conference, so that will be solid too. WKU will be better in every facet of their game entering this 2021 season and I expect them to content for an East division title. I see this game as yet again another coin flip. Whoever makes the least mistakes and has the better ground game likely wins this one. I hope it's us but it's always been a challenge for us in Bowling Green. With that being said, let's go with a 50 yard FG for the win as time expires.
Win
MT 45
WKU 44


To be continued
 

sWiley

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Coming down the stretch with 3 games remaining, sitting at 5-4 on the season, 3-2 in the conference. I really do believe if we can stay healthy we are at 5 wins here, again maybe 4 if we drop Monmouth. Every game is a must-win to even be considered for possible tie-breaking scenarios for the East.

Middle Tennessee hosting FIU - FIU isn't projected to be a great team this year but it's always a battle with these guys. Butch Davis is no push-over and this is a squad that returns 18 starters, 9 on each side of the ball. When you start to try and predict and project games this late in the season before the season has started it can be very difficult. College teams grow, have injuries, and can look completely different as the season progresses. With that being said we will do our best. Max Bortenschlager, former Maryland QB who seems to have been in college for a decade now, will likely be your starter here. Numbers for him weren't great last year but he didn't have much time with the team. Now, the raw talent is there and with a proper off-season, spring and fall camp, etc, I believe FIU will be sneaking up on a lot of teams this year. Keep an eye on their OOC games @ Texas Tech and @ Central Michigan early in the season. FIU's biggest weakness will be their size up front on defense. It's just not there. And so I do think MT gets the ground game going as FIU is light up front and can and will be exposed with a proper rushing attack. Last time FIU visited the Boro, in 2019, MT piled up 471 rushing yards along with 4 fumbles recovered by MT. Expecting something similar here after a scary first half. If FIU is able to find a way to stop our run and make us one dimensional, it'll be a long day for the Blue Raiders. I don't think that happens though.
Win
MT 34
FIU 24


Middle Tennessee hosting Old Dominion (Senior Day) - We get a weak team here in what has traditionally been a strong time for the Blue Raiders. Over the last 9 senior days, MT is 8-1 straight up and 6-2-1 against the spread. We traditionally play very well towards the end of the season, and I'm expecting more of the same here. ODU is a respectable squad but this is a rebuild job for second year head coach Ricky Rahne (Former Penn St. OC). ODU returns only 10 total starters, 7 on offense and 3 on defense. They did bring in a handful of transfers but don't have a ton of experience on tap. With that being said, I do not believe this game will be as easy as people believe. ODU will have had almost an entire season under their belt to break in all their new faces and should be humming when they roll into the Boro. At QB they have a very dynamic dude in Darriel Mack Jr (UCF transfer) who is an outstanding runner and passer. If they manage the upset, he will be the reason as ODU will need a lot of points to beat MT. Their defense returns only 3 starters and they lost some key players on D via transfer portal. MT will be a double digit favorite here and should be able to dictate the pace of the game.
Win
MT 41
ODU 21


Middle Tennessee @ FAU (Season finale) - I believe this game will have major implications for the East, either for MT to clinch a birth or for FAU to clinch a birth, or for one team to play spoiler for the other, etc. I see both FAU and MT contending for the East crown this year (FAU, Marshall, MT, and WKU will be the players for the East this year). Interestingly enough, Marshall closes the season hosting WKU as well so the East Division is going to be super interesting all the way down to the final week this year! Historically, MT has fared very well against FAU. The Blue Raiders have won 12 of the last 14 meetings but lost their last two trips to Boca Raton. Giving up too many rushing yards has been the back breaker in those losses "Devin Singletary rushes for another TD!" ring any bells? *Vomit*. Thankfully, Singletary and Lane Kiffin are both long gone out of town. Enter second year head coach Willie Taggart, former WKU head coach who knows plenty about CUSA. The Owls return an absolutely LOADED roster for 2021 with 20 total returning starters, 10 on each side of the ball, and only losing 5 lettermen while returning 54. The Owls return more and lose fewer lettermen than any team in the conference! They will be led by Miami transfer QB N'Kosi Perry. Also at the QB position for FAU is Penn St. transfer Michael Johnson and the very highly rated recruit Willie Taggart Jr. FAU is loaded at QB! Also projected to start for them is South Florida transfer RB Johnny Ford and Notre Dame TE transfer Zaire Mitchell. Auburn transfer Kamaar Bell will man the RG spot on the OL. Are we seeing a trend here? FAU has brought in some talented transfers + return a lot of talent too. If the games were played on paper FAU would be your champs here. They do have some special teams concerns with no real experience at Kicker. The game will be late in the season so who really knows who will be healthy, available, starting etc. Defensively FAU employs a fast attacking 3-4 defense. The 3-4 has been known to be susceptible to the run so if we can establish a solid ground game we could really start to dictate things on offense. As usual, and a reoccuring theme you've heard me discuss, whoever runs the ball better and wins the turn over battle will win this game. Two fairly evenly matched teams, both will have a good idea at this point in the season what the other wants to do. It's going to come down to execution, guts, and winning at the line-of-scrimmage. This should be a tremendous game to watch in the late fall down in Boca Raton with major implications on the line.
No Prediction!


To be continued
 

sWiley

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Final thoughts on the upcoming season....

This is going to be one of the most unique and hopefully exciting seasons we will have seen in a while. There are so many unique factors that will play a role in CFB this year. The first and most obvious is the return from covid to some normality and with that, all the covid waiver returning players. CFB teams this year will have more experience and talent than they've ever had before. There are some teams like Minnesota and UTSA who return nearly every single player on their roster. This is unprecedented. It should hopefully lead to higher quality football across the board as nearly every team will have tons of experience and talent returning. The only teams that actually had high turn over, like Alabama & Clemson, already reload every year anyway. Also remember that transfers are not sitting out a year anymore, so we will see the effect of players being able to play right away all across the country. And last but not least, players can now benefit from their NIL so I wouldn't be surprised to see commercials during games that start having CFB players in them. Crazy times.

I'm personally very excited for CFB season as a whole, but I'm really hopeful for MT football in particular as well. We nearly made Phil Steele's "Most Improved List" this year but he soured on us after putting us on the list last year and we played so bad. There were 8 teams per his magazine that almost made his most improved list, MT was one of them as was WKU. Southern Miss did actually make his Most Improved List, which I completely agree with. Southern Miss is my dark horse in CUSA this year as I mentioned above when I talked about our game with them.

We will know a lot more about this team after the first two weeks. Hosting Monmouth and then @ Va. Tech will be major challenges for us. I'm praying we can go 1-1 there as we begin CUSA play with UTSA in Week 3. Hockman will need to be a player for us and need to stay healthy if we are to have any shot in the East.
 

arg3b

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Great write ups, Wiley! I appreciate the research and insight that you provided here!