BOCA RATON – After going 1-3 in their non-conference schedule, FAU begins Conference-USA play against a banged up Middle Tennessee team. MTSU, 2-2, has already lost starting quarterback Brent Stockstill for a few weeks with a shoulder injury suffered at Syracuse. He isn’t expected to play on Saturday.
No. 1 receiver Richie James, who is questionable against FAU, is also fighting an ankle injury. He is listed as questionable but was walking in a boot last week according to The Daily News Journal.
Despite the Blue Raiders injuries, Lane Kiffin still has a challenge in front of him for coaching first C-USA game. MTSU has dominated FAU, winning the past nine meetings, including a 77-56 victory last year. The year prior was a 24-17 FAU loss thanks to a huge game from James, then a freshman, who scored two touchdowns over 60 yards. Kiffin is looking to change the narrative of this season.
The File: MTSU vs. FAU
THE SERIES: MTSU leads the series 11-3
LAST MEETING: MTSU 77. FAU 56 (2015)
MTSU OFFENSE: The Blue Raiders run a high-powered spread offense. This will not be like the Buffalo offense FAU faced last week. MTSU frequently employs four wide receiver sets which will keep the Owls’ secondary busy. They also like to motion player in the backfield to keep the defense on its toes. With MTSU potentially missing their two best offensive players in Stockstill and James, they may not be as explosive – but history shows FAU can’t afford to relax. Last year against FAU the Blue Raiders had 757 yards of total offense, despite playing without a full-time quarterback most of the game.
Offensive Players to Watch:
- 8, Ty Lee, So. WR: With James out much of this year Lee has been the most explosive player for the Blue Raiders. He is the player most often in motion. He’ll line up at both running back and receiver. He can be compared to a Tavon Austin with his size and speed. James leads the team in receptions with 20 and has two receiving touchdowns on the year. He also has a rushing touchdown.
- 19, John Urzua, R-So. QB: The replacement for Stockstill will play a key role. Against Bowling Green last week Urzua threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns. His big-play potential rises if Richie James is able to play.
- 3, Richie James, R-Jr., WR: James is questionable for this game but is still a danger if he plays. MTSU’s all time leading receiver, James is an explosive threat that cannot be taken lightly. In his first three years of college, he has 232 receptions for 3,177 yards and 22 touchdowns. Those are huge stats and last year vs. FAU, he put up 120 yards and a score. Serving as the wildcat quarterback last year against FAU, James rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns, and also threw for 76 yards.
MTSU DEFENSE: The Blue Raiders run a base 4-3 defense which gives up an average of 24.5 ppg. That average places the Blue Raiders one spot ahead of FAU in the Conference USA standings. The defense also struggles to produce turnovers, having a single interception and a fumble recovery on the season. They do get after the quarterback, though, sacking opponents 11 times this season – which is tied for third most among C-USA teams. And the 104.8 yards rushing allowed per game is second best in the Conference. MTSU has yet to allow a team to eclipse the 400-yard mark in total offense, and last week against Bowling Green, MTSU only allowed one net rushing yard.
Defensive Players to Watch:
- 16 Khalil Brooks, R-So. LB: Brooks brings the biggest pressure for the MTSU front seven. He has two and a half sacks on the season and will pressure the FAU quarterback. He also has four and a half tackles for a loss on the season. Look for him to get direct pressure on FAU early.
- 30 Darius Harris, R-Jr., LB: Another linebacker who can put pressure on the run, Harris has three and a half tackles for a loss on the season and 21.5 total tackles on the season. Unlike Brooks, he is one of the better pass defenders on the team, recording two pass breakups.
COMMON OPPONENT OPPONENTS: For the second consecutive week FAU faces a team that has already played Minnesota. Middle Tennessee lost to the Gophers 34-2 on Sept. 7. Last week’s opponent, Buffalo, fell to Minnesota 17-7 in the opening game for both schools.
CONFERENCE BEGINNINGS: This is the fourth time FAU and MTSU have met for a conference opener. MTSU has the upper edge against FAU going 2-1.