Sun Belt Battle: Florida Atlantic vs. Middle Tennessee State

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2009

After both teams combined for over 110 points last week, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and Florida Atlantic Owls are set to do battle in Boca Raton for a chance to grab second place in the Sun Belt Conference.

Middle Tennessee, fresh of their 62-24 homecoming victory over Western Kentucky, looks to be finding their offensive groove after having consecutive games of scoring under ten points.

MTSU coach Rick Stockstill praised quarterback Dwight Dasher's practice the week before Western Kentucky, and the results on the field showed.

Dasher threw for 355 yards while running for another 66. Dasher's five total touchdowns were signs of a quarterback returning to form.

Not to be outdone, Florida Atlantic went on the road and hung 51 on Louisiana-Lafayette. Quarterback Rusty Smith had four passing touchdowns to go along with his 359 yards passing.

Where they once looked like a team lost, the Owls may have found their stride.

This week's game will help determine where each team's future lies.

The Blue Raiders have the look of a team bouncing back from a disappointing stretch against Troy and Mississippi St. An offense that seemed lost, was seemingly found in only 60 minutes of action against an inferior opponent.

Are the Blue Raiders returning to their early-season form, when they beat Memphis and Maryland in back-to-back weeks?

Or are they simply playing lesser competition?

The Florida Atlantic Owls are riding a two-game winning streak while returning home to play their toughest test in the Sun Belt so far. Florida Atlantic was once again expected to compete for a league title after a Motor City Bowl victory over Central Michigan.

Are the Owls rounding into a contender?

Or are they simply setting themselves up for a disappointment?

On paper, Florida Atlantic is the much more balanced football team. Running back Alfred Morris, only a sophomore, has already compiled over 700 yards on the ground. This is impressive considering FAU has played South Carolina and Nebraska this season.

Middle Tennessee has officially lost their opening-week running back, Phillip Tanner, for the season. Tanner will apply for a medical redshirt, hoping for a fifth-year of eligibility.

With the loss of Tanner, quarterback Dwight Dasher is leading the team in rushing with 417 yards.

Defense is the difference between the two teams. Florida Atlantic has given up nearly 36 points per game this season, including 40 to North Texas. Middle Tennessee played that same North Texas squad and gave up 21.

The Blue Raiders have given up an average of 27 points per game.

If Dwight Dasher plays the way he has against the likes of Maryland, Memphis, North Texas, or Western Kentucky, they will win this game by two scores.

If Dasher gives a Mississippi State of Troy performance, the Owls will win, and more questions will arise in Murfreesboro.


My Prediction:

Middle Tennessee 37

Florida Atlantic 24