Middle Tennessee vs. Army Betting Picks and Predictions

September 3, 2020

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders @ Army Black Knights

The Pick: Army -3.5

Date: Saturday, September 5th
Time: 1:30 PM ET
Venue: Blaik Field at Michie Stadium
Network: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Army -3
O/U: 55.5

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Preview

It wasn’t a pretty 2019 for the MTSU Blue Raiders, going just 4-8 and finishing second-to-last in the Conference USA. They were demolished by three different Power 5 teams in their first four games, but were otherwise solid. They lost three of their last five games by a combined 11 points and showed flashes of brilliance late in the season. Still, the pass defense ranked dead last in the conference and this defense is losing 9 starters. That might just be a good thing after how bad they were in ‘19. They’ll be tasked with the impossible puzzle that is the triple-option and it’ll be interesting to see how the newcomers perform. It’s always an advantage to start the season with Army as you get far more than a week to prepare for the quirky sets. 

Offensively, Asher O’Hara is the player to watch and the heart and soul of this Blue Raiders attack. He not only threw for 2,616 yards and 20 touchdowns, but added 1,044 yards and nine scores on the ground. There wasn’t another back over 300 yards on the season, so it’s safe say the weight of this offense lies firmly on the shoulders of O’Hara. The receiving corps is a talented and experienced one and they’ll lean on Jimmy Marshall and Jarrin Pierce with Ty Lee gone. If Middle Tennessee wants to keep this game close, they’ll have to find a way to slow down the triple-option and put up points on a tough Army defense. They need to get out to a quick start as Army is nearly impossible to beat once they establish a lead.

Army Black Knights Preview

The 2020 season is going to be a telling year for the Army Knights as long-term stars Kelvin Hopkins at QB and Connor Slomka at RB graduated at the end of last year. The hope is that the success of this team is system-driven and not reliant on individual talent. At quarterback, Jabari Laws will step in with extremely high expectations. He’s a tiny QB, standing just 5’9 and 175 pounds. It actually stands to his advantage in the triple-option as he’s exceptional at hiding behind the bigger lineman and exploding through the smallest of holes. He’s faster than Hopkins and I think there’s a bit more upside in his legs. Defensively, Army ranked third in the division and only lose a few starters. They should once again be a solid squad that relies on the offense keeping them fresh.

We’ll see five running backs get meaningful carries and it’ll be a group effort replacing Slomka. FB Sandon McCoy is the most experienced back in the mix and he’ll be delivered a lot of the short-yard touches. Artice Hobbs and Dominic Distefano are the other two starting RB’s and have a bit more upside on outside runs. McCoy led the Black Knights with 10 TD’s in 2019, so expect him to be the guy getting the ball in the redzone. Laws is the guy it all comes down to as he makes these decisions and it’ll be pivotal for him to decide right play in and play out. He might be inexperienced under center at the college level, but this is a four-year high school starter at the position and got some run last yea with 484 rushing yards and four scores.

Trends

Blue Raiders are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games played in September.
Black Knights are 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 games in September.
Under is 8-3-1 in Blue Raiders last 12 games in September.
Under is 7-3-1 in Black Knights last 11 games in September.

Game Prediction

If you’re looking for a reason to ride with Middle Tennessee, it always helps to get the extra time to prepare for this offense. On the contrary, this Jabari Laws led offense hasn’t been seen before and I think he adds another dimension that Hopkins didn’t have. The Blue Raiders offense is good enough to put up a couple of touchdowns, but O’Hara is also prone to making mistakes and this Army defense is no joke. Time of possession is the name of the game for Army and they’ll look to methodically stomp down the field with an even mix of basic and creative runs. The lead is always hard to take from Army as they keep the ball out of your hands and make so few mistakes. Give me the Knights to comfortably take this game. 

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The Pick: Under 55.5Final Score: Army 26, MTSU 20

Total Prediction

Both of these teams like to keep the ball on the ground and the clock is rarely going to stop ticking here. On the Army side, we’ll be lucky to see two total passes. They’ll wind nearly every play clock down and will look to keep the ball out of Asher O’Hara’s hands. O’Hara and the Blue Raiders will throw the ball more than Army, but they’ll still have a goal of keeping the ball on the ground and minimizing mistakes. Both of these teams have started slow offensively in each of the last two seasons and it has to do with finding a rhythm when you run a run-heavy offense. Look for both teams to come out a bit sluggish before turning it up in the second half. 

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