Florida Atlantic (3-7) at Middle Tennessee (5-5) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium (30,788) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: American Sports Network. Home Record: Florida Atlantic 3-1, Middle Tennessee 4-1. Away Record: Florida Atlantic 0-6, Middle Tennessee 1-4. Neutral Record: Florida Atlantic 0-0, Middle Tennessee 0-0. Conference Record: Florida Atlantic 2-4, Middle Tennessee 4-2. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 8-3.
GAME NOTES: After losing two consecutive games, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will try and get back in the win column as they host the Florida Atlantic Owls in a Conference USA matchup at Johnny Floyd Stadium.
Florida Atlantic has dropped three consecutive games dating back to mid October. The Owls have surrendered over 30 points to opponents in the last three contests, including consecutive 31-point games to UAB and North Texas, respectively.
Middle Tennessee isn't bowl eligible yet, but the Blue Raiders will be if they can beat FAU this weekend. The Raiders lost to conference foe FIU last weekend in Miami, 38-28, which would have been a huge boost for the Raiders moving forward in terms of postseason eligibility.
These two teams have met 11 times on the football field before, with Middle Tennessee owning an 8-3 all-time series advantage. The Raiders have won six consecutive matchups between the sides, which includes last year's 42-35 overtime triumph.
Not much went right for the Owls offensively in the team's loss to North Texas last weekend. FAU managed just 197 offensive yards in the contest - most of which came from quarterback Jaquez Johnson, who had 99 passing yards and a touchdown, and eight rushing yards. Johnson is responsible for 15 touchdown passes and 1,778 yards through the air this season, and has helped his team to average 22.6 ppg and 347.7 total ypg. He's started all nine games for the Owls, and has a completion percentage just under 59 percent.
Lucky Whitehead has separated himself from the rest of the Florida Atlantic receiving corps. The target has hauled in 67 receptions for 639 yards and six touchdowns through 10 games, while the next closest receiver for the Owls has 26 catches for 400 yards and two scores. Tight end Alex Deleon does have four receiving scores, though.
The team's run game hasn't been as explosive as head coach Charlie Partridge would have hoped. Jay Warren was slated to lead the team this season, but has only scored once on the ground through eight games played. He still leads in terms of yardage (441), but Johnson has succeeded Warren for most carries (99) on the season. Johnson has a team-high five rushing touchdowns this season, and averaged 43.3 rushing ypg.
It's been a struggle defensively for FAU this season, which hasn't held an opponent to fewer than 30 points in a game since a Sept. 20 loss at Wyoming (20-19). The 31-point weeks the Owls have allowed in the most recent two outings are the fewest points allowed since the contest against the Cowboys. Limiting opponents' scoring is clearly an issue, as FAU gives up 34.7 ppg and 457.1 offensive ypg. Also take into account the team has recorded just six interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
Andrae Kirk has been a lone bright spot on the defensive side of the ball, racking up a team-high 84 yards with 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions and eight pass breakups. Lineman Trey Henderickson also has 11 tackles for loss, along with a team-high five sacks, which will come in handy against a Middle Tennessee team built on running the football.
Speaking of the run game, the Blue Raiders pride themselves on establishing an effective ground attack first, then relying on quarterback Austin Grammer to get the job done through the air. Reggie Whatley heads the backfield group for Middle Tennessee having gained 566 yards on 88 carries this season with four touchdowns. Shane Tucker has scored a team-best six rushing TDs, while Grammer himself has chipped in with five ground touchdowns.
Middle Tennessee averages 32.3 ppg this season behind the running game and Grammer, who has thrown for 2,298 yards and 15 touchdowns against 10 interceptions in 10 games played. His 229.8 passing ypg mark is significant enough to move the ball around, setting up strong scoring opportunities. He's thrown all 15 of the team's touchdowns this season.
The receiving corps is relatively spread out statistically. Ed'Marques Batties tops Middle Tennessee's receivers with 37 receptions and 417 yards, adding three scoring catches to his stat line. Marcus Henry adds over 400 yards and three more scoring receptions to the team, and Tucker has caught a team-best four scores out of the backfield.
The Blue Raiders have struggled defensively from time to time, but they've also played some stiff offensive competition. Naturally a loss to Marshall (49-24) was going to jack up the team's opponent scoring statistic. But other losses to BYU (27 points allowed), FIU (38 points) and Memphis (36 points) don't help. Middle Tennessee is allowing 32 ppg and 453.1 offensive ypg through 10 contests.
Linebacker T.T. Barber is the leader of the defensive group, having accumulated a team-best 64 tackles with 6.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Lineman Shubert Bastien has notched a team-high nine tackles for loss with 5.5 sacks, so getting to Johnson to disrupt the Owls' backfield will be in his hands. Defensive back Khari Burke's 10 pass breakups will serve him well against Johnson's arm.
The Blue Raiders possess an offense too explosive for FAU's defense, while the Owls won't be able to make much of a dent in terms of scoring against an athletic Middle Tennessee defense. Expect Grammer to have a strong game as he picks apart the FAU secondary.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 29, Florida Atlantic 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 22, 7 p.m. (ET)