The Vanderbilt Commodores travel 35 miles up the road to Floyd Stadium where they will take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders in Week 1 College Football Action. Kickoff is set for 8:00 PM EST on Saturday, September 2nd. Those wanting to watch the action can catch the game on the CBS Sports Network.

Taking a look at the opening week odds, Vanderbilt opened as a 9 point favorite.  As we draw closer to kick-off, the line has moved drastically toward Middle Tennessee State, as the Blue Raiders are now just 5.5 point underdogs. The total for the contest is currently at 58 points.

Vanderbilt vs Middle Tennessee State Game Preview & Betting Odds

The Blue Raiders were fantastic on offense in 2016, as they averaged nearly 40 points per game en route to an 8-5 record. QB Brent Stockstill threw for an average of 325+ yards/game before injuring his collarbone and missing the last several games of the season. He had off-season shoulder surgery, so it should be interesting to monitor how he looks health-wise during the first few weeks of Middle Tennessee State’s 2017 schedule. He should get plenty of help once again from his favorite receiving target, fellow junior Richie James. The explosive duo put on a clinic for much of the 2016 season and will need to continue to do so moving forward due to several unproven entities at RB and a relatively inexperienced offensive line.

Former Syracuse coach Scott Shafer heads into his first season as Defensive Coordinator for Middle Tennessee State with a lot to improve. The Blue Raiders struggled mightily on defense in 2016, allowing an average of over 35 points per game. Fortunately for Shafer, eight of the nine top tacklers are returning this season including leader (102 tackles) Chris Melton.  However, much work still needs to be done in order to drastically improve a shaky secondary and a completely rebuilt defensive line.

Vanderbilt’s offense was very effective on the ground last season, led by Ralph Webb and his almost 1,500 yards from scrimmage. He returns for his senior season where he should put up big numbers once again. Commodore QB Kyle Shurmur needs to keep the momentum he found in the last month of 2016, as the overall success of this Vanderbilt team is directly related whether or not there is an immediate improvement in the consistency and efficiency of the passing game.

Seven starters return for the Commodore defense, who like the Blue Raiders, were a highly underwhelming unit last season. Star DB Torren McGaster signed with the Cincinnati Bengals after a standout season, which leaves plenty of question marks in the Vanderbilt secondary. Coach Mason will also need to address the lacklustre pass rush, as the meager 15 sacks generated by the Commodores defense in 2016 was a near record low.

Free College Football Betting Selection: OVER 58

At the beginning of the week, I would have been all over the Blue Raiders after they opened at +9 as it felt like fantastic value. However, with a current line of +5.5 (and shrinking), I think the better play at this point is taking the OVER on 58 total points scored. Even so, Vanderbilt is 3-13 in their last 16 road games and the Blue Raiders are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven home games. Therefore, taking Middle Tennessee State if the spread stays above 5 points doesn’t necessarily look like that bad of an idea.

Click here to access all of our expert free NCAAF picks for Week 1 action.

My reasoning for recommending the OVER is pretty straightforward : both defenses struggled at times last year and Oddsmakers are expecting this to be a close game. If it stays close (as expected), I think it is much more likely these two teams are involved in a shootout rather than a low-scoring, defensive battle.

Middle Tennessee State allowed more than 35 points per game last year, while the Commodore’s hovered around the 25 points allowed per game mark all season. Additionally, the total has gone OVER in 7 of Middle Tennessee State’s last 8 games – and also in 4 of Vanderbilt’s last 6 games.

Ultimately, I expect both offensive units  to play to their strengths and find a lot of success in Week 1. Middle Tennessee State was a top #15 passing offense in the nation in 2016, and I’m expecting Stockstill, James and Co. to come out firing on all cylinders.  Vanderbilt’s passing game should find success of their own against a mediocre Blue Raider’s secondary.  Expect Shurmur to continue his elevated play from the tail end of his Sophomore season into the start of his Junior year. No matter which team comes out on top in this “All Tennessee” match-up, there should be plenty of points scored by both sides.