Middle Tennessee vs. Liberty Week 8 college football prediction and preview

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Week 8 Tuesday games feature Middle Tennessee vs. Liberty

Weeknight college football graces us with its presence again on Tuesday in Week 8, as we’ve got a trio of games to discuss. Two games come from Conference USA, as Middle Tennessee visits Liberty and Western Kentucky heads to Jacksonville State. We also have some Sun Belt action with Southern Miss taking on South Alabama.

 

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Odds as of 10/16, 2:30 p.m. ET

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Liberty Flames (-14.5, 55.5)

Liberty is one of the best Group of Five teams in the country, as mentioned in this week’s T Shoe Index resume ranking update from our very own Tyler Shoemaker. Liberty ranks 27th in yards per play allowed on defense and 13th in YPP on offense. Troy and Liberty are the only Group of Five teams to rank in the top 30 in both of those stats.

Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee ranks 78th in YPP with a one-dimensional offense that really only finds success throwing the ball. The defense ranks 77th in YPP, so they’re pretty identical on both sides of the ball and not in a particularly great way. They’re a below average group all around facing a Liberty team that has been great this season.

However, MTSU has been pretty solid against the run this year. The Blue Raiders are 59t with 3.91 yards per carry allowed. They have allowed 13 rushing scores, but are certainly much more effective against the run.

Liberty has been running the ball a ton lately. Their 279 carries rank tied for eighth in the nation, as first-year head coach Jamey Chadwell seems to prefer that to throwing it with QB Kaidon Salter.

By running the rock and being deliberate, along with having a good defense, Liberty games have been pretty low-scoring of late, with 44, 37, and 44 points in their last three games. I think Under 55.5 looks interesting here, as MTSU probably won’t score much and Liberty will run the clock down.

Pick: Under 55.5 (would play to Under 54.5)

Other Tuesday Games

Western Kentucky (-7, 60) at Jacksonville State: The Hilltoppers are laying a healthy road number as they look to move to 3-0 in Conference USA. This would be a huge win for WKU because it would give Jacksonville State a second loss in conference play. With no divisions, it would likely make next week’s game against Liberty a conference championship preview.

Jacksonville State ranks 22nd in YPP allowed on defense, so this will be a good test Western Kentucky’s passing attack, though the ‘Tops have not been nearly as explosive this season as they have been in past seasons. That said, WKU does have over six yards per play across two conference games and Ohio State and Troy were part of the non-conference slate.

The Gamecocks’ limited offensive upside makes it tough to take them, even with their solid defensive numbers and that’s the hold-up for me in this game.

Southern Miss at South Alabama (-18, 53): It has been a disappointing season for both teams, but one had much higher expectations. South Alabama let out some frustration last time out with a blowout win over UL Monroe, but losses to Central Michigan and James Madison erased the shine of a road win over Oklahoma State earlier this season.

Southern Miss has just been awful, with one win against a FCS team and five straight losses otherwise. The Golden eagles have one of the worst defenses in the nation with 6.8 yards per play. Only New Mexico, UMass, and Nevada allowed more coming into Week 8. The Jaguars seem to have found their defensive stride, allowing just 4.98 YPP in two conference games. 

On paper, the Jaguars are far and away the better team, but 18 points is a lot. My line is 16 here, so I don’t like it from a matchup or numbers standpoint, but it wouldn’t be totally surprising to see South Alabama put a beating on another Sun Belt foe.