UNT Q&A arrt

North Texas will take on Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro on Saturday. 

North Texas will play its first road game of the season on Saturday when the Mean Green take on Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro.

UNT has dropped three straight since opening the season with a win over Houston Baptist, including its first two games in Conference USA play. The Blue Raiders lost their first four games of the season before pulling out a 31-28 win over Florida International last week to move to 1-2 in league play. 

We are fortunate to welcome in Joseph Spears of the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to discuss the game.

Joseph covers the Blue Raiders for the paper. One can find his work on the MTSU section of the News Journal's website and can also catch up with him on Twitter at @joe_spears7.

Here is what Joseph had to say about tomorrow's game:

1. How big of a boost did winning last week give MTSU?

Saturday's win against FIU was huge for MTSU. After back-to-back blowout losses to open the season, the Blue Raiders suffered two heartbreaking losses to open conference plays and needed any sort of morale boost. The season was starting to get away from them and a loss to FIU would have all but ended the season and we're not even in mid-October yet.

The way they won and the sense of happiness they got from the win could be a game-changer for this team. On Monday, Stockstill said that he could sense a different feel in the building and with a high-octane offense like North Texas coming to town,

MTSU needed some momentum heading into this game.

2. Rick Stockstill has always been a class act and one of my favorite coaches in C-USA. How much pressure is he under this year?

After a 4-8 season last year the fan base was already hot despite being in the C-USA championship game the year before. Those same fans are even angrier this year with the way MTSU started the season, but I feel like Stockstill's seat isn't that hot.

First, he has a $6 million buyout and that's something MTSU can't afford. You also have the fact that MTSU has been competitive in conference games this year so far and a lot of people are looking at this as a throw-away year with players all eligible to come back next season.

Now if MTSU doesn't win any more games this season and then starts off next season on the wrong foot, I think the hot seat really starts to get hotter.

3. How much did having two key running backs opt out of the season hurt the Blue Raiders?

I think losing Martell Pettaway and Amir Rasul was huge because MTSU's rushing game outside of Asher O'Hara has been pretty non-existent this year.

Chaton Mobley and Jayy McDonald have shown flashes but they've been wildly inconsistent and MTSU offensive coordinator admitted that they went into the year still using the game plan they were going to use if Pettaway and Rasul were playing and that hasn't worked out. However, I don't believe that Franklin is still giving his backs enough touches.

Most games O'Hara has double the amount of runs as the MTSU backs and most of those runs are designed runs.

4. What is the strength of MTSU’s team this season?

Despite their 1-4 record, I think this team has plenty of strengths. Asher O'Hara has been inconsistent throwing the ball, but the Blue Raiders have a talented receiving corps led by Jarrin Pierce and Yusuf Ali. MTSU also has a great punter in Kyle Ulbrich who's made some punts this season.

However, I think MTSU's defense as a whole is the team's biggest strength. MTSU's giving up 34.8 points per game this year but the defense has been put into some pretty horrible spots, especially early in the year, by the offense's inconsistencies.

MTSU already has more sacks this year than they did for the entirety of last season and the secondary is only giving up 166 yards per game through the air. We'll see how good this defense really is on Saturday.

5. How do you see this game playing out?

If MTSU had lost last Saturday, I would see this one getting ugly fast. However, MTSU enters this game with much-needed momentum while North Texas has lost three straight.

MTSU's offense has been wildly inconsistent this year but the North Texas defense has been one of the worst in the country. I think this is the sort of game Asher O'Hara could really thrive in especially if he gets the run game going early. This is a chance for MTSU's defense to cement itself as one of the better ones in Conference USA but it won't be easy.

This could be a shootout but I think MTSU is headed in the right direction while North Texas still has a ton of questions.

Prediction: MTSU 41, North Texas 30

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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