One of the lower rung SEC teams in Vanderbilt ventures into Conference USA territory visiting Middle Tennessee State, and if form holds, expect a relatively low scoring game.
Points may be hard to come by when a lower-tier SEC school visits a Conference USA squad Saturday night as the Vanderbilt Commodores (1-3, 3-1 ATS) pay a visit to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (2-2, 4-0 ATS) at Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, TN at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
The posted total at Bet365 is 52½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -110.
Competitive 1-3 SEC Team
Vanderbilt may be 1-3 straight up with the only win being a non-covering 47-7 win over Austin Peay of the FCS as a 47-point favorite, but the Commodores have been very competitive and are in fact 3-0 ATS in their three losses vs. FBS competition. That includes two covers inside the brutal SEC where Vanderbilt lost 31-14 to Georgia at home and 27-16 on the road to a Mississippi team that some people feel is among the best in the country.
Middle Tennessee State is 2-2 but the two wins have not come vs. much as the Blue Raiders beat Jackson State of the FCS 70-14 and a brand new FBS team in its first season at this level in Charlotte 73-14. Meanwhile, they have been the losing college football picks in their two attempts at stepping up in class, first 37-10 at Alabama and then 27-25 at Illinois last week.
Have Not Gone ‘over’ Yet
Vanderbilt has assembled a very nice defense, but its offense is suspect to say the least and, as you might suspect, that has made the Commodores an ‘under’ friendly team to this point at 3-0-1, with the ‘under’ being 3-0 vs. FBS competition. The season began with the Commodores shutting down the supposedly high-powered offense of Western Kentucky in a 14-12 loss and they then did a good job defensively in the two SEC losses.
Vanderbilt is ranked 34th in the country in total defense allowing only 321 yards per game, 36th in rushing defense at 125.8 yards on 3.7 yards per carry and 46th in passing defense at 195.2 yards on 6.1 yards per pass attempt, all while yielding 19.8 points per game.
Unfortunately the offense is not as good as its stats with the Commodores padding their numbers with 541 total yards vs. Austin Peay, and that unit is holding Vanderbilt back from being a winning SEC team. And the season-opening 12 points at home vs. Western Kentucky, which like Middle Tennessee State also hails from Conference USA, certainly seems like a bad omen for Vandy in regards to this contest on the road.
Offense Stymied by Better Teams
Now it would appear that the offensive performance by MTSU has been inconsistent if just looking at the scores of the games so far, but in fact there is a discernable pattern. Note that the 70-point performance came in the two games vs. the FCS team and fledging FBS team, while in the two losses vs. better competition, the Blue Raiders were kept in check. Yes, the performance in Alabama was understandable, but what about the 25 points and 368 total yards vs. Illinois?
So where does Vanderbilt lie in terms of competition? Well, the Commodores are not Alabama but they do have an SEC quality defense that is almost certainly better than the Illinois defense. Thus, we look for another pedestrian performance by the Middle Tennessee offense here vs. a very good defense. The Blue Raiders could still win this game however, but that is primarily due to the inefficiencies of the Vanderbilt offense.
Friendly Toward ‘under’ vs. SEC
Finally, the earlier ‘under’ vs. Alabama means that it is now 4-0 the last four times that Middle Tennessee has faced an SEC opponent. Meanwhile, the ‘under’ is 36-17-1 in the last 54 Vanderbilt games following a straight up loss.
We expect more of the same from both sides here, so back the Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee State contest to stay ‘under’ this relatively high posted total on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee State ‘under’ 52½ (-110)