Is a struggling FBS school (Middle Tennessee) better than a ranked FCS school, (Monmouth)? The teams open the season against each other in Tennessee, and this could be an early-season upset.
Middle Tennessee had high expectations last year but finished 3-6. The Blue Raiders put up good offensive numbers last year but had trouble scoring and stopping other teams. The Blue Raiders have nine returning starters on both sides of the ball and will be looking to improve with a new offensive coordinator.
Monmouth came within a hair of beating eventual champion Sam Houston State early in the playoffs. The Hawks have won two straight Big South titles, and are picked to win the conference again. Monmouth has even higher aspirations heading into this season. The team has 14 on the preseason All-Big South team.
Middle Tennessee has nearly everyone back, and N.C. State transfer Bailey Hickman, who passed for 2100 yards last season, is expected to take the helm. Senior Jarring Prince leads a receiving corps that returns intact. If the offensive line improves, the Blue Raiders could have a very potent offense. On defense, Reed Blankenship is one of the best safeties in the country and heads a big group of returners. Middle Tennessee averaged 22 points and gave up an average of 35 last year.
Monmouth freshman Tony Musket was great in his debut last spring and is expected to lead the offense to new heights this year. Lonnie Moore (1,022 yards) and Terrance Greene (915 yards) lead the receiving corps.