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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium (31,000) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UNT 2-1, MTSU 1-2. Away Record: UNT 1-3, MTSU 3-1. Neutral Record: UNT 0-0, MTSU 0-0. Conference Record: UNT 2-1, MTSU 2-1. Series Record: North Texas leads, 7-4.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Sun Belt Conference teams attempt to break free from the middle of the pack on Saturday afternoon, as the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders play host to the North Texas Mean Green.
North Texas has had an up-and-down season, but with a 30-23 win over Louisiana on Oct. 16, it moved to 2-1 in conference play. The Mean Green will try to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, but they have not fared well away from Denton, winning just two of their past 10 road games dating back to last season.
Middle Tennessee's season has been a pleasant surprise for the most part with a 2-1 record in the Sun Belt to go along with a very impressive non-conference win at Georgia Tech on Sept. 29, 49-28. The Blue Raiders managed to hold their own in the first half against undefeated Mississippi State last week, but they surrendered 35 unanswered points in the second half to fall, 45-3.
The Mean Green have a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series versus Middle Tennessee, which includes a 59-7 blowout in Denton in the final game of the 2011 season.
North Texas ranks in the bottom half of the Sun Belt in both scoring offense (21 ppg) and total offense (402.9 ypg), but the unit is coming off its best performance of the season against an FBS opponent, putting up 30 points and more than 500 yards against Louisiana.
Derek Thompson has taken every snap under center for the Mean Green, and he has been consistent in the passing game with more than 200 yards in five straight. He is coming off his best performance of the year against the Cajuns, completing 17-of-28 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, giving him 1,517 yards and eight TDs (five INTs) on the season.
Brandin Byrd has a team-high 123 carries and 468 yard to go along with two rushing scores. Antoinne Jimmerson (76 carries, 402 yards, three TDs) and Jeremy Brown (46 carries, 230 yards, two TDs) are integral parts of the rushing attack as well. Jimmerson is also dangerous in the pass game (seven receptions, 180 yards, two TDs).
Brelan Chancellor is a big-play threat at receiver, putting up 443 yards on only 24 catches with five touchdowns. Ivan Delgado leads the team in both catches (32) and yards (453) but he has yet to reach the end zone.
Despite modest defensive numbers (25.4 ppg, 392.6 ypg), the Mean Green have played much better against conference opponents, allowing just 17 ppg in their three Sun Belt tilts.
Junior linebacker Zach Orr recorded nine tackles and an interception against Louisiana, earning the SBC Defensive Player of the Week in the process. As a team, North Texas has picked off nine passes, second-most in the conference.
Middle Tennessee (29 ppg) was one of the best offenses in the league heading into its bout with Mississippi State, but they were swallowed up by the tough SEC defense for its worst performance of the year (three points, 305 yards).
Despite struggling last week, Logan Kilgore has been a reliable signal-caller, averaging more than 225 passing yards per game on 67 percent completions while tossing nine touchdowns against four interceptions.
Kilgore's most trusted target is Anthony Amos, who leads the SBC in receiving yards (673) and touchdowns (five) and is second in catches (45). Amos' fantastic season is even more impressive considering the lack of help he gets from other receivers, as no other player averages more than 36 yards per game.
The Blue Raiders suffered a huge blow when they learned before the MSU game that Benjamin Cunningham (600 yards, 11 TDs) had been lost for the season with a knee injury. Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley filled in nicely last week, combining for 114 yards on 19 carries.
The defense (29.7 ppg) held strong in the first half against the Bulldogs a week ago, but caved for 35 points after intermission. The unit has been vulnerable against the pass, allowing just under 260 ypg through the air.
Craig Allen (54 tackles, sack, fumble recovery) and Roderic Blunt (53 tackles, INT, fumble recovery) are the most active members of the defense. With three sacks apiece, Leighton Gasque and Shubert Bastien have accounted for more than half of the team's total (10).
Middle Tennessee is surely happy to be back home after such a brutal non- conference road loss last week, and North Texas has been historically shaky outside of Denton. Both quarterbacks are proven commodities with plenty of talent at the receiver position, and even though the Mean Green defense has played much better of late, the Blue Raiders will muster up enough points to squeak out a tight one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 24, North Texas 21
10/24 10:33:22 ET
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