One of the few remaining undefeated teams in the country will take the field tonight for an early week conference game, with the Liberty Flames playing host to the MTSU Blue Raiders. We’ll preview the matchup before breaking down why I’ve got my eyes on the point total.
Not losing a game is a pretty solid way to get yourself in the good graces of a fan base, and so far, that’s been the case for Jamey Chadwell and Liberty. After leaving Coastal Carolina to lead the Flames, Chadwell’s team is sitting at 6-0 with an offense that ranks 16th in points per game. In their 31-13 win last Tuesday against Jacksonville State, the Flames rushed for 245 yards and two touchdowns, showcasing another example of opposing defenses being unable to stop their rushing attack.
Ranking number four in the country in average rushing attempts per game with 46.5, the Flames average 253.5 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. With a running back like Quinton Cooley, who leads the team with 592 yards, and a quarterback who can use his legs like Kaidon Salter, it would make sense why the Flames want to wear opposing defenses down through their run game.
Having such a staunch rushing attack has also helped Kaidon Salter have an open field when he drops back to pass. With a 14:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Salter’s passing prowess makes it so teams can’t just stack the box. His passing ability should also help him tonight against an MTSU defense that has struggled the most with limiting opponents through the air, allowing an average of 274.5 passing yards per game.
Despite the Blue Raiders defense allowing 340 passing yards and two touchdowns last week, they still managed to come away with a 31-23 win over LA Tech to give them a 2-5 record. MTSU quarterback Nicholas Vattiato was able to offset his team's defensive shortcomings by throwing for 248 and two touchdowns. By completing 79.3% of his passes in the game, Vattiato was also able to become 23rd in the country in completion percentage.
The total for this matchup is currently set at 56.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my play. In Liberty’s six games this season, the under is 4-2, and a big reason for that is their run-heavy approach has made them ranked 7th in the country in time of possession. The Flames' strategy of controlling the clock and running the ball is already good for the under, but the fact that Middle Tennessee’s defensive strength is run defense makes it even better.
Through their six games, MTSU ranks 39th in average yards allowed per carry (3.6) and 35th in average rushing yards allowed per game (123.7). The Blue Raiders rank 4th in the conference in EPA on rush plays, so they have a chance at slowing the Liberty offense down even more since the Flames are 4th in the country in rush play percentage.
Offensively, the Blue Raiders want the ball in Vattiato’s hands as much as possible, but the Flames defense is built to limit passing games. Liberty ranks 3rd in opponent completion percentage, 7th in average yards allowed per pass, and 23rd in average passing yards allowed per game. With MTSU averaging just 20 points per game, their already below-average offense could struggle even more tonight.
Under 56.5 (-110)