Middle Tennessee (3-1) at BYU (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 27, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470) -- Provo, Utah. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: MT 2-0, BYU 1-1. Away Record: MT 1-1, BYU 0-1. Neutral Record: MT 0-0, BYU 0-0. Conference Record: MT 1-0, BYU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The BYU Cougars will close out their three-game homestand on Friday night with a non-conference clash against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee is off to a strong start, winning three of its first four contests. The Blue Raiders are in their first season as a member of Conference USA, and their first league matchup last week was against a familiar foe in Florida Atlantic. The back-and-forth contest against their former Sun Belt Conference rival went to overtime, where the Blue Raiders came away with a 42-35 victory.
BYU has started the year hot and cold. On the positive side of things, it has an impressive home win over then nationally-ranked Texas under its belt, defeating the Longhorns 40-21 on Sept. 7. On the other hand, the Cougars have dropped a pair of close bouts, falling at Virginia in the opener (19-16), and to intrastate rival Utah last weekend (20-13).
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between the Blue Raiders and Cougars.
Middle Tennessee's offense has played well, ranking third in C-USA in scoring (31.0 ppg) while showing an impressive balance between the run (196.2 ypg) and the pass (205.5 ppg). The squad has been outstanding on third down, converting 48 percent.
The offense has been effective despite the up-and-down play of its quarterback. Logan Kilgore has thrown for 729 yards and four touchdowns, but he is completing less than 61 percent of his pass attempts and has tossed five interceptions, second-most in the league. He came through in the clutch in the win over FAU however, with the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime going to Kyle Griswould.
Jordan Parker has played outstanding as the lead back, turning 86 carries in 435 yards and four touchdowns. Reggie Whatley (243 yards) was a difference maker last week with three rushing scores.
Tavarres Jefferson has team-highs in both receptions (22) and receiving yards (279), but he has yet to find the end zone. Griswould is a stellar second option for Kilgore with 14 catches for 127 yards and two scores.
Luckily the offense has been on point so far, because the Blue Raiders defense has not been particularly strong (28.5 ppg, 433.8 ypg).
The unit has made up for its lackluster play however by accounting for 11 turnovers (seven INTs, four fumble recoveries). T.T. Barber anchors the defense with 44 tackles, 3.0 TFL, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery. Dearco Nolan has registered three sacks, while Jared Singletary has 2.0 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
While BYU's offense has had little problem putting up big yardage totals (494.7 ypg), it has not resulted in many points (23.0 ppg), and its production is expected to take a huge blow with the loss of one of its key players.
Jamaal Williams was in the midst of a great campaign with 378 rushing yards (5.0 ypc) before having to leave the Utah game early after a scary hit left him immobilized. He was taken off the field on a stretcher, and although he was released from the hospital on Sunday without any serious injuries, he is expected to miss time with a concussion. As a result, Paul Lasike (113 yards, TD) and Michael Alisa (44 yards, TD) will both see an increase in playing time.
In Williams' absence, Taysom Hill will take on an even larger role in the offense. The quarterback has been electrifying on the ground, rushing for 400 yards and four touchdowns on just 48 carries. His effectiveness as a passer, however, has not been up to snuff (.351 completion percentage, 564 yards, TD, three INTs).
The Cougars' run-first offense means that Cody Hoffman (10 receptions, 171 yards) is the only player with double-digit catches through three games.
Defensively, BYU has played well enough to win each of its games, as it has yet to allow more than 21 points in any matchup. The unit is holding foes to a meager 24 percent conversion rate on third down.
Kyle Van Noy is one of the nation's premier defensive playmakers, and even with opposing offenses game planning for him, he is still off to an impressive start with 20 tackles 4.5 TFL, a sack and eight QB hurries. Uani 'Unga has a team-best 25 tackles to go along with 3.0 TFL, while Craig Bills has the club's lone interception.
Whether or not BYU can generate enough offense to win without Williams remains to be seen, but even though it experienced a letdown last week, it still enjoys a strong home field advantage, winning six of its last eight at Edwards Stadium dating back to last season. The Cougars defense is still one of the top units in the nation, and should be able to stymie Middle Tennessee enough to come out victorious.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 31, Middle Tennessee 20
09/25 10:34:40 ET