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VANDERBILT FIRST LOOK: MTSU

Here we are again, football season! And the Commodores could be pretty good. First things first, though, is a dangerous Middle Tennessee team. Here's a first look at the Blue Raiders.

WHAT WE KNOW

Rick Stockstill, head coach

Middle Tennessee finished last season 8-4 (5-3) in the Conference USA. Middle has been bowl eligible five straight seasons although they missed out on a bowl in 2014 because there weren't invited. Interestingly, while Vandy has enjoyed trips to Birmingham and Shreveport for its last two bowls, the Blue Raiders have enjoyed fun in the sun in Hawaii (2016) and Bahamas (2015). Sickening. MTSU's biggest win last season was a 51-45 victory at Missouri. Vandy topped the Blue Raiders in 2016 in Nashville 47-24 in a wild, weather delayed game.

According to Phil Steele, the Blue Raiders return six on each side of the ball. Highlighting the MTSU offense is junior quarterback Brent Stockstill who passed for 4,000 yards while completing 67 percent of his passes for 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Wide receiver Richie James earned third team All-America honors in 2015 and first team All-CUSA honors last season. Defensive end Walter Brady is a preseason first team All-CUSA selection. He is a transfer from Missouri who had seven sacks in 2015.

INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS

MTSU is fairly healthy according to Don Best. Running back Terell West injured a knee and is not expected to play. He rushed for a little over 100 yards last season and is not a projected starter. West is the only player listed as injured.

CHALLENGES

Vanderbilt has lost five straight openers, three of those were under Derek Mason. This is an opportunity to stop that streak and start the season in a positive manner. Middle has not been a "cupcake" opponent for Vandy by any means. The new century marked a new nightmare for the Vanderbilt program. The Commodore lost three contests to the Blue Raiders from 2001 and 2005. Those losses were absolutely appalling for Vandy fans. The first game featured the Middle mascot incredibly humping a Vanderbilt cheerleader and the middle fans, many drunk, chanted "Same ole Vandy" as the game drew to a close. Last year we saw a Blue Raider player charge Derek Mason on the sideline and it looked like there might be trouble. Simply put, Vanderbilt can't lose to these guys. The University of Tennessee is 200 miles away, Middle is 30 miles down the road. The challenge is to take these guys seriously and take care of business.

Saturday's game at Middle Tennessee starts at 7:02 pm CT and will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network. Tickets still remain for between $26 and $32.

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