Let’s get a few things out of the way about the Alabama Football opening game. Middle Tennessee State (MTSU) is a credible opponent. Last September, MTSU scored 45 points on Kevin Steele’s Miami defense while beating the ranked Canes by two touchdowns.
MTSU finished the season with an 8-5 record, closing the season with four straight wins. They were also soundly beaten by James Madison, UTSA, UAB, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech.
None of that recent history will have any impact on Saturday night’s game.
MTSU has a new QB1 in Nicholas Vattiato. This is his third season at MTSU, but he has played in only eight games. His accuracy is solid at 66.8%, but his touchdown pass, to interception ratio is poor with seven of each. The Blue Raiders return their top running back from last season, Frank Peasant, who rushed for 777 yards last season.
Schematically, MTSU’s head coach, Rick Stockstill is a hybrid Air Raid guy, who seeks a balance of offensive production but is reliant on four-wide formations. MTSU will look to attack through the air first.
The MTSU offense is nearly a total personnel rebuild from last season. The defense returns many experienced players, but the 2022 defense was 6th in Conference USA in Scoring Defense. Last season their strength was run defense, leading the CUSA at a 3.36-yard average. That stat was No. 16 among all FBS teams. Last season MTSU was 4th in the CUSA in Passing Defense, calculated on opponent completion percentage. Some reports suggest the Blue Raiders’ secondary will be improved this season. The MTSU defensive backs are led by cornerback Teldrick Ross. Ross is on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. Last season Ross led the CUSA with 20 pass breakups and two interceptions.
Alabama Football and Middle Tennessee State
The two programs have a limited history against each other. Rick Stockstill has coached one game against the Alabama Crimson Tide, in 2015, losing 37-10. MTSU also lost to AlabamaFootball in 2002 and 2005. The Crimson Tide opened the 2002 season with Middle Tennesee State. The Blue Raiders gave Alabama a tussle, before losing 39-34.
On Saturday night, the Blue Raiders will find the going tough against the Crimson Tide. There is little chance Vattiato will be able to look past his first read more than a few times. An aggressive Alabama defense will likely smother MTSU and allow few points.
For the Tide offense, Saturday will be a quarterback practice and audition. Except the Tide’s O-Line will make so many holes, yards on the ground may not require much passing offense.