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2017 Reviews: Middle Tennessee

This team goes as Brent Stockstill goes. The talented son of the coach has been the bellwether for the offense for a long time. This is not unusual in the realm of football but it is interesting how the entire team plays better when Stockstill is on the field. The JR QB had a down year as he battled injury throughout and John Urzua actually attempted only 19 fewer passes in his stead, completing just two more.

Urzua is done after sustaining career-ending concussions and so MTSU will have to consider the backup and future QB position this upcoming season. Stockstill played in the last five games and MTSU won four. That is the Blue Raider team everyone thinks of when they consider the power rankings.

The turnover, mistake prone version is the one we saw for a large part of the early season.

Depending on your prediction for MTSU, the loss to Vandy was either expected or disappointing. Considering that MTSU has been one of the league’s better teams in the last five years, this blog considers it disappointing. Stockstill was ineffective, and MTSU managed just six points.

Knocking off Syracuse was bittersweet, as that game saw Stockstill go down for the better part of the season. John Urzua stepped in to lead the team to only two wins and five losses in his time, only managing one game — the great effort against FIU – where he did not throw an interception.

The offense was less productive than last year and while it may be tempting to dismiss that simply because there was no Alabama A&M (MTSU rang up 55 on them in 2016) and FAU is much improved (MTSU had 77 on them last year) there is more. In 2016, MTSU scored less than 24 points just once — 17 vs Marshall — and reached 24 exactly vs Vandy.

This season MTSU was held to less than 24 five times including less than 7 twice. MTSU scored above 31 only five times. There is no doubt that Stockstill is important.

The frustrating part of this past year was that the defense had returned to form. While the 2016 team was putting up loads of points, it had to. This year the defense was allowing only 24.7 — an improvement of 11 ppg over 2016. All across the stat sheet, the defense was better including gains of 10+ yards, where MT allowed 70 plays fewer of that number.

Playing What If? is a dangerous game but the improved defense and a healthy Stockstill might have challenged for the division. It seems likely that MTSU would have finished better than 6-6. The bowl game and the four-wins-in-five end allowed everyone to go out on a high note.

The challenge for HC Stockstill is in finding a way to be good without overly relying on kid Stock.

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