2022 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Preview

by Matt Fargo

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

2021-22 Season Record 7-6 (4-4 C-USA East) - 7-6-0 ATS - 6-7-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 5
Defense - 6

Overview

Head coach Rick Stockstill has been at Middle Tennessee for 16 seasons which is a very long time for a coach to still be around with a career record of only three games over .500 in that span. The Blue Raiders have just one double-digit winning season and have not won more than eight games besides that and the results are invites to nine mid-to-low tiered bowl games. But he enters his 17th season with the program and the final one in the current C-USA format as more teams are leaving next season and more coming in making a total new look next season. After having 20 starters return last season, only 11 come back this season so it will be a little more challenging especially considering their No. 108 ranking in returning production. 2019 was the last season they had half or fewer of their starters returning and that resulted in a 4-8 season and that is something that has to be avoided this year.

Offense

The Middle Tennessee offense was below average last season as it was ranked No. 100 overall and the rushing game was nonexistent as it was No. 110, averaging a mere 120.8 ypg on 3.5 ypc. The leading rusher gained only 372 yards and he is gone so someone has to step up and it could be Frank Peasant who was third on the team with 239 yards but managed only 3.7 ypc or it could be a young player to emerge. Quarterback Chase Cunningham was progressing nicely with 1,318 yards passing and 16 touchdowns with only three interceptions but he got hurt in the eighth game and was done for the season. He now has to hold off Nicholas Vattiato who finished pretty strong in relief. There are numerous receiving options but none that jump off the chart so it could be another season of spreading the ball around after nine players caught a touchdown pass. The offensive line stunk and now has to replace four starters.

Defense

The Blue Raiders were better on defense and that is what kept them afloat. They held seven opponents to 24 points or less and to no surprise, they went 6-1 in those games and they are going to need another above average performance and one that is more consistent. Middle Tennessee improved by over 70 ypg and 10 ppg from the previous season which was due to being No. 1 in the country in takeaways and that is something that cannot be counted on again. The strength of the defense is going to be up front as all four players from the defensive line are back including sack leader Jordan Ferguson who got to the opposing quarterback six times and was part of the all-around group that finished tied for No. 30 in tackles for loss. That backend is in trouble with the four top tacklers gone including linebacker Reed Blankenship who did it all in the middle. Five replacements back here will have to step up in a hurry.

2022 Season Outlook

By the looks of things, it looks like another average season for Middle Tennessee as nothing jumps out as something that can carry this team if other areas break down. Essentially, every level on both sides will have to improve as the Blue Raiders were No. 53 or worse in seven of the eight major stat categories. Stockstill is a beloved asset to this program so he is not on the hotseat unless something utterly horrible happens but another bowl game will at least keep him around. The schedule is not in their favor as the Blue Raiders have seven road games including nonconference games at James Madison, Colorado St. and Miami Florida and they have to go to UAB in their toughest road conference test. Playing UTSA and Western Kentucky at home is a decent break. The O/U win total is set at 5.5 and while it is low, finding four or five sure wins is difficult enough, let alone six as a 2-5 road record looks about right. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2022 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.