Conference USA Week 7 Overview: FIU Soars Past Middle Tennessee

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 2:12 PM UTC

Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018 2:12 PM UTC

The outright lead in the Eastern Division of Conference USA will be on the line when Middle Tennessee faces Florida International on Saturday night. The spread is tight, which could mean a very close contest.

Doug's 2018 NCAAF Picks Record: 7-6

C-USA Spotlight: Middle Tennessee (3-2 SU and ATS) at FIU (3-2 SU, 4-1 ATS)Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (beIN)Free NCAAF Pick: Florida International ATSBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Middle Tennessee was an underdog in the last two weeks in conference play and each time they came away the outright winner. With the college football odds listing them as a two-point road underdog in the first part of the week, the Blue Raiders will try and make it three in a row.

Florida International is coming off their bye week. Their game against Arkansas Pine Bluff was merely a scrimmage the week prior, winning 55-9 as a 57-point favorite, which is their lone non-cover of the season.

Middle Tennessee holds a 9-4 edge all-time but is 3-3 and 2-4 ATS at FIU Stadium.

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IT'S @FIU HOMECOMING WEEK!@FIUFootball vs Middle Tennessee
Saturday, October 13th @ 7:30PM#PantherPride 😼 #PawsUp 🐾 #FIU 🏈 pic.twitter.com/nMm8mqimT7

— FIU Online (@FIUonline) October 8, 2018
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Some could look at these defenses and surmise FIU has the edge because they have allowed 24.4 PPG compared to Middle Tennessee at 33.5 PPG. When you start digging into the numbers, the differences are not quite as great. The Blue Raiders concede only nine more yards per game than their opponent. This is due to them having faced Vanderbilt and Georgia on the road compared to the Panthers' two toughest games being at Miami-Florida and home vs. Indiana. FIU does have an overall speed advantage, but otherwise, they are comparable.

The Blue Raiders average only 26.6 PPG, but if you toss out scoring 14 total points against two SEC teams and 61 versus Tennessee-Martin, they are at 29.5. If we do something similar with FIU and drop Pine Bluff, UMass and Miami, coach Butch Davis' squad is at 28 PPG.

This is the first time Middle Tennessee is not favored in this annual matchup since 2011. While I feel I could make a compelling case for the Blue Raiders, FIU's running game will control the tempo. The Panthers average 185 YPG on the ground at 4.7 YPC and in both of Middle Tennessee conference triumphs, they have been gouged for 240.5 YPG rushing.

Even with their win at Marshall, the Smurfs (old-school reference) are 2-7 ATS after a road win, which is the other reason to take the Panthers in your college football picks.

Around Conference USA (All Games Saturday)

UAB at Rice (+16), 1 p.m. ET, on ESPN+: UAB controls their destiny in the West Division, but might they be looking ahead with North Texas on deck? The Blazers are 1-9 ATS on the road off a road win. Rice has dropped five straight (2-3 ATS), losing by 24.8 PPG.

Southern Miss at North Texas (-8.5), 2 p.m. ET, on ESPN3: Southern Miss is 3-1 ATS and comes in off a bye week, but has 11 turnovers in four games. North Texas has not played well the last two weeks and is 8-27 ATS after a contest where they committed no turnovers.

Western Kentucky at Charlotte (+9.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, on ESPN+: Western Kentucky has the poorer overall record in this conflict, but is 4-1 ATS. One problem, all those covers came as underdogs. Charlotte is 2-1 SU and ATS at home, with their only loss to Appalachian State. The 49ers face a Hilltoppers team that is 1-8 ATS as favorites.

Marshall at Old Dominion (+3.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, on Stadium: There is a question as to the exact status of Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green, but early reports expect him to play. Old Dominion has not done much other than the Virginia Tech upset and is 1-5 (2-4 ATS). The SU winner here is 4-0 ATS.

Louisiana Tech at UTSA (+13.5), 7 p.m. ET, on ESPN+: Louisiana Tech could not handle prosperity after beating North Texas and lost at home to UAB by 21. The Bulldogs are 10-2 ATS off an upset loss as a home favorite. UTSA is 1-7 ATS at home since last year.

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