Teams: Syracuse Orange (1-0, 0-0) vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (0-1, 0-0)
Day & Time: Saturday, September 9, 2017, 3:30 p.m. ET
Field: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
Line: Syracuse, -9.5 (started at -8.5)
TV: ACC Network Extra (WatchESPN)
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Middle Tennessee blog: Underdog Dynasty
Rivalry: Not a game played on the football field.
Current Streak: N/A
First Meeting: As mentioned, never. However, Syracuse did defeat the Blue Raiders basketball team on #ApologyTour2016.
Last Meeting: Just click the Apology Letter link above. It’s fun.
Head Coaches: SU: Dino Babers (2nd year, 5-8), MTSU: Rick Stockstill (12th year, 72-67)
Coach Bio: After playing quarterback at Florida State, Stockstill coached at Bethune-Cookman, UCF and then for an extended stint at Clemson. Two more stops in East Carolina and South Carolina, respectively, led him to Middle Tennessee. Since 2006, he’s won one bowl game in six tries, split a couple conference titles and played up from the Sun Belt to C-USA. They’ve only had a losing record once since 2009.
Last Year: Middle Tennessee started out 4-1, including an impressive win over eventual Conference USA West Division champ Louisiana Tech. However, the team was just 4-4 from there on, including a bad loss to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. Quarterback Brent Stockstill threw for over 3,200 yards and 31 scores despite missing some time, and I'Tavius Mathers was a monster running the football (1,561 yards). The Blue Raiders could’ve potentially won the East if not for the Stockstill injury.
Last Game: Hosting fellow Tennessee football program Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee had high hopes for an upset. However, the Commodores were able to throw the ball with ease and completely shut down the MTSU offense throughout the game. Vanderbilt won 28-6, holding the Blue Raiders to just 215 yards of total offense (300 less than last year’s average).
"Fear Me, I've Killed Hundreds of Timelords": Richie James is a versatile threat with the football, whether that’s rushing or pass-catching. Last year, he caught 105 passes for 1,625 yards and 12 touchdowns, and added another 339 rushing yards plus four more scores on the ground. Despite Middle Tennessee being kept in check by Vandy last week, James still had 10 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown (the only one of the game for MTSU).
If Syracuse Wins: We’re at 2-0 for the first time since 2015 (“2-0! Two years!”) when Scott Shafer got the team to three victories to open the year before a loss to LSU began an eight-game skid. The Orange are supposed to beat Middle Tennessee and Central Michigan before once again facing LSU. Let’s hope it doesn’t preclude an eight-game losing streak once again.
If Syracuse Loses: “SHAFERRRRRR!” (/shakes fist) Syracuse would be on the road to ruin, figuratively, picking up a loss when they could least afford it. Given the difficulty of the schedule ahead, any loss before the LSU game would spell doom for the Orange’s bowl hopes.
Fun Fact: Scott Shafer won’t be the only familiar face on the sidelines for Syracuse fans this weekend. Joining him at Middle Tennessee this offseason was former SU linebacker Siriki Diabate. Diabate was on the Colgate staff last year, so returning to the Carrier Dome is nothing new to him. He’s actually worked or played on campus every year since 2011.
After finishing up his playing days in 2012, he was a graduate assistant for the Orange from 2013 through 2015. Then he worked as a safeties coach with ‘Gate from 2015-17 (coming back to campus to play Syracuse last year).