The game time has changed, but the opponent hasn’t.
And if you’re Jake Fromm or Justin Fields, the sooner you get to face that secondary, the better.
Middle Tennessee’s pass defense has struggled mightily so far in 2018. Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur averaged 17 yards per completion against the Blue Raiders in Week 1. And the MTSU secondary was routinely torched by an FCS quarterback last week to the tune of 358 yards and four touchdowns.
They did manage to intercept UT-Martin’s quarterback twice, at least.
Athlon goes on to note that we shouldn’t expect “the Bulldogs to stray from their stellar rushing attack”, and, hell, why should we? Not only has it racked up the yards in the first two games, but a Ralph Webb-less Vanderbilt ground game still managed to run the ball 38 times for 176 yards against the Blue Raiders.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Seth Emerson ($$) reports that Middle Tennessee runs a shotgun spread offense behind an experienced quarterback. Looking at his game log, his completion percentage stands out. Even against Vandy, he connected at a 66.7% rate. The problem was he averaged less than five yards per pass attempt. That’s not good, but when your running attack is notching less than three yards every time it touches the ball, it’s the best option you’ve got.
If you think that’s an indication that the quarterbacks and running backs are operating behind a less than stellar offensive line, you’re right.
Only two teams in the FBS have allowed more sacks than MTSU so far this season. The Blue Raiders offensive line surrendered six sacks against Vanderbilt and gave up another four against FCS UT Martin last week.
Seth indicates that Vanderbilt took advantage of numbers in that Middle Tennessee didn’t always leave many blockers in on a play. Combine that with the Athlon observation that “… if there is a knock on MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill, it is that he tends to hold on to the football for too long”, and you’d have to think even if Mel Tucker wants to keep things vanilla tomorrow, the Georgia pass rush is going to get home fairly often.
Special teams? MTSU’s kickoff specialist has a 25% touchback percentage and its place kicker has missed his only field goal attempt and two extra point attempts. Their punt game looks solid, though: nine punts with an average over 45 yards a punt, with only one return. (Insert your Dooley-esque long snappah observation here.)
On paper, then, it’s not a fair fight. It’s up to Kirby to make sure it’s not a fair fight on the field, either.