Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Troy Trojans (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, October 6, 2009, Movie Gallery Stadium, Troy, Ala. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Middle Tennessee +4.5/Troy -4.5
Two Sun Belt rivals will face off in a Tuesday night ESPN2 battle as the Troy Trojans host the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee started its season with a 37-14 loss at Clemson before winning three in a row, including the last two on the road. In the Blue Raiders’ lone home game thus far, they defeated Memphis, 31-14. Then, they travelled to Maryland and won a nail-biter, 32-31. In their first Sun Belt game of the season, they rolled on the road 37-21 at North Texas. Now, the Blue Raiders will try to improve to 2-0 in the Sun Belt in their third straight road game.
Troy is also 1-0 in the Sun Belt after a 30-27 road win at Arkansas State. The Trojans started the season with two road losses at Bowling Green (31-14) and No. 1 Florida (56-6) before winning at home over UAB, 27-14.
Last season, Troy won this battle at Middle Tennessee, 31-17, in the season opener. In that game, Troy running back DuJuan Harris had 148 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. Troy shut down the Middle Tennessee running game, holding the Blue Raiders to just 84 yards on 50 carries. Troy held a commanding 31-3 in the fourth quarter before the Blue Raiders put two late scores on the board.
As far as statistics are concerned, that game was similar to Troy’s win over Arkansas State. Although Harris only had 48 yards on 13 carries, the Trojans as a team ran for 134 yards, and they held Arkansas State to just 70 yards on 25 carries. The Trojans only won that game by three, but the consistent rushing attack and the persistent run defense of Troy was evident.
Troy quarterback Levi Brown has been very effective this season. He threw for 413 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the win over UAB. For the season, he has 1,097 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions, and he’s completed 63.7 percent of his pass attempts.
Harris has struggled with just 161 yards on 57 carries for a 2.8 yards-per-carry average.
In Middle Tennessee’s win over North Texas, it was all Dwight Dasher. The quarterback threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 75 yards and another two touchdowns. North Texas put up 470 total yards of offense, but the Blue Raiders came away with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries while not turning the ball over once themselves. Against Maryland, Dasher had 350 total yards and three touchdowns, and the Blue Raiders won on a last second field goal despite giving up 477 yards of offense.
Middle Tennessee hasn’t defeated Troy since 2005, when the Blue Raiders won 17-7 at Troy. The Trojans were 5-0 at home last season and are 26-4 at home since 2003. Troy is 4-1 ATS in its last five games against Middle Tennessee.
Troy is nearly unbeatable at home, including a few wins over ranked opponents over the past few years. Some teams just play exceptionally well in their own stadium, and Troy is one of those teams. Last season, when the Trojans were 5-0 at home, the closest any team came to them at their stadium was 10 points. The last time they lost at home was a 38-32 loss to Florida Atlantic in the final game of the 2007 season.
Playing against elite competition sometimes gives teams an edge from that point on. After getting routed 56-6 at Florida, Troy has won two straight games. There’s nothing wrong with a Sun Belt team getting blown out against the No. 1 team in the country. Scoring six points at the Gators can even be called an accomplishment for a Sun Belt team.
Ryno’s Pick: Middle Tennessee is playing its third straight road game and has already won the first two of those games. Winning three straight road games is an accomplishment not many teams have done, even elite teams. That’s just one of many factors stacking the odds against the Blue Raiders. Troy is nearly unbeatable at home and the Trojans are playing well, coming off consecutive wins. Despite winning three straight games, Middle Tennessee is not playing good defense. Troy will shut down Dasher and win this game convincingly. Take Troy -4.5.