Middle Tennessee (1-1) at Memphis (0-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 15, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (62,380) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: MT 1-1, Memphis 0-1. Away Record: MT 0-0, Memphis 0-1. Neutral Record: MT 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Conference Record: MT 1-0, Memphis 0-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 15-8-1.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Volunteer State foes square off on Saturday night, as the Memphis Tigers play host to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.
The campaign got off to a disappointing start for Middle Tennessee when it fell to FCS member McNeese State at home, 27-21. The Blue Raiders got on track last week however, defeating Florida Atlantic in a 31-17 final to open their Sun Belt Conference schedule. With a win this Saturday, they will be over .500 for the first time since 2009.
On the other side, the season has not started off the way Memphis had hoped, the team having suffered a pair of losses, both coming by a combined eight points. The Tigers lost their home opener to Tennessee-Martin, 20-17, on a last-second field goal, and after leading for most of the game last week, they allowed Arkansas State to come back and post a 33-28 triumph.
The rivalry between these two programs dates back to 1925, and Middle Tennessee holds to a 15-8-1 advantage, which includes wins in three of the past four meetings.
After struggling in its opening loss, Middle Tennessee's offense picked up the pace in week two with a strong effort against FAU, gaining 480 total yards, including 302 on the ground.
Jordan Parker (117 yards) and Drayton Calhoun (104 yards, TD) each went over the century mark last week, marking the first time a pair of Blue Raiders have accomplished that feat since 2009. The two have combined for 287 yards on 48 carries so far this season.
Logan Kilgore has been efficient in running the offense thus far, completing 37-of-55 passes for 418 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception.
Without question, Anthony Amos has been Kilgore's favorite target. His 172 yards receiving is nearly double any other MT player, and he also leads the team with 12 catches. With two TD receptions against FAU, he now has three receiving scores on the season -- tops in the Sun Belt.
The Blue Raiders defense has been neither great nor terrible thus far, surrendering 403 yards per game, but the unit is yielding only 22 ppg.
Roderic Blunt has a team-high 20 tackles, which included a dozen last week. The defensive unit hasn't been active in the turnover battle, recording zero interceptions, but it can get after the quarterback (four sacks).
The Tigers offense has been lackluster after a pair of games, averaging 326 ypg and 22.5 ppg. They managed to put up 28 points last week against Arkansas State, but one of their touchdowns came on defense and another on special teams.
Quarterback Jacob Karam has taken good care of the football so far, tossing zero interceptions paired with three touchdown passes. However, he hasn't been all that electrifying either, completing just 50 percent of his passes (26- of-52) for 311 yards.
Keiwone Malone has been the most active Tiger receiver, leading the team in catches (nine) and yards (123) while also adding a touchdown. Marcus Rucker and Alan Cross have also caught scoring passes.
Jerrell Rhodes has acted as the feature back for Memphis to this point, gaining 176 yards on 37 carries with a touchdown.
The Memphis defense has big-play potential -- the unit blocked a punt and recovered a fumble for a touchdown last week -- but it has allowed more than 1,000 yards in two games.
Charles Harris leads the unit in tackles with 25, while Lonnie Ballentine has also been around the ball a lot as well with 23 tackles and two interceptions. The Tigers have yet to record a sack this season.
While Middle Tennessee may have more momentum coming into this game, Memphis has some extra motivation playing in front of its home fans following back-to- back heartbreaking losses. The teams should be in for a back-and-forth battle, and the Blue Raiders will need to count on another productive outing from their running backs, but playing on the road will lead to a few extra mistakes, and the Tigers will take advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 31, Middle Tennessee 27
09/12 10:42:49 ET