SEASON SO FAR
Middle Tennessee opened its 2016 season last week in Murfreesboro by destroying FCS opponent Alabama A&M 55-0. The Blue Raiders bolted out to a 45-0 halftime lead as quarterback Brent Stockstill passed for five touchdowns in the first half while completing 30-of-36 passes for 329 yards for the game. Running back Terelle West picked up 83 yards on 15 carries to pace the Blue Raiders. Middle limited A&M to just 49 yards total offense in the first half. A&M gained 145 total yards during the game while MTSU played mostly reserves in the second half. The Blue Raiders finished with 681 yards total offense.
INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS
Middle Tennessee has some concerns in the injury department. During the opening victory, Middle suffered two significant injuries. Senior starting wide receiver Demetrius Frazier was injured in the first quarter after making three catches. He is not expected to play against Vandy. Frazier has 48 career receptions. The Blue Raiders have already had to shift players around due to several injuries to wide receivers. Two other receivers, Jocquez Bruce and Terry Pettis were injured during preseason practice. Starting senior right defensive end Chris Hale also went down to in the first quarter. He is also doubtful for Saturday. The 6-foot-4, 260 pound Hale started 11 games last season for the Blue Raiders and finished the season with 28 tackles, including 6 1/2 for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble. MTSU had previously lost senior WR/RB Shane Tucker during preseason practice. Tucker had been moved to wide receiver from running back late in fall camp, because of aforementioned injuries at the receiver position. Tucker has over 1,000 career yards rushing with nine career starts. He made three catches in the game with Vandy last season.
This is a big-time trap game for Vanderbilt. The Commodores rallied for two late touchdowns to defeat the Blue Raiders last season. Vandy has historically had problems with MTSU at home, at least in modern history. The Commodores biggest opponent on Saturday will be between their ears. If they show up flat and still sulking over the blown game against South Carolina, they will lose. If the show up on fire, hungry for a victory, they can win. That's going to be hard to do though, because a win over MTSU means nothing other than being a notch in the victory column. Meanwhile, a win for Middle over Vandy is huge. A victory over a SEC opponent will have them dancing in the streets in Murfreesboro. The problem is, Vanderbilt needs this win badly to gain some momentum and work towards salvaging the season and possibly slipping into a bowl.
The Commodores are 13-3 all-time versus the Blue Raiders. The series dates back to 1915 when the 'Dores crushed MTSU 51-0. Vandy would go on to win 12 straight games in the series from 1915 to 1956. The two schools didn't play each other again until August 30, 2001, when MTSU prevailed 37-28. The Blue Raiders then picked up two more wins in 2002 (21-20) and 2005 (17-15). In the 2005 game, Vandy had a short field goal attempt in the final minute of the game blocked when a Commodore lineman missed a basic blocking assignment. Last year's victory over Middle was the first Commodore win in the series in almost 60 years.
Saturday's game starts at 3 pm CT and can be seen on the SEC Network Alternate channel.