Know the Foe - Middle Tennessee

Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Getting to know the Blue Raiders.

The Blue Raiders. Interesting that there are Blue Raiders and Red Raiders (Texas Tech) but no Raiders. Could this be a political thing? Probably not.....their women's teams are called the Lady Raiders - I think Pink Raiders would have been more appropriate.

Are they called Middle Tennessee or Middle Tennessee State? It's very confusing. They go by MTSU, they are listed as Middle Tennessee on the schedule, their university website calls them Middle Tennessee State, but they have just a 'MT' as their logo. So I don't know the official answer.

History of MSU vs. MTSU/Middle Tennessee/MT

The Dawgs are 4-0 against the boys from Murfreesboro, TN. The first game was a 40-7 shalacking in 1999. Hmmm, more parallels with the '99 season. In 2000, State won 61-35. MTSU was an independent for these first two games as they entered Division 1-A in 1999.

The next game was in 2008 when MSU won again, albeit a close affair, 31-22. In 2009 the Bulldogs made the trip to Murfreesboro (about half an hour south of Nashville) and won 27-6. Mullen was impressed by their defensive coordinator in that game, Manny Diaz, and hired him to be his DC for the 2010 season.

Middle Tennessee's Season

The blue pirates are 4-2 so far this year. They are coming off a very poor 2-10 year and only returned 13 starters, but they've played very well this year. Their opener was actually a loss to FBS McNeese State, 27-21. Since then, however, they have played good football beating Florida Atlantic, Memphis, Florida International and a big time 21 point win at Georgia Tech. They did lose to Louisiana Monroe, but we all know ULM is no slouch this year. They are 3-0 on the road.

MTSU's Offense

They've had an solid rushing attack this year - 195 yards per game. One problem though, their leading rusher, Benny Cunningham is out for the year with a knee injury. He averaged 120 yards per game...13th in the country. He also had 11 touchdowns, good for 3rd in the country. I recorded their win over GA Tech to watch this week, he was everywhere in that game with pounding runs to punish the Yellow Jacket D (217 yards, 5 TDs). But he'll be gone, so that's good news for State....but it may not be the good news you might think at they have a couple other running backs with about 200 yards apiece in Drayton Calhoun and Jordan Parker. Those two got the call against FAU with Calhoun gaining 114 yards and Parker 117. Calhoun is a LSU transfer, former high school All-American and was selected by Phil Steele as 2nd team All-Sun Belt in the preseason when he was the starter.

The really cold buccaneers have been pretty balanced this year. QB Logan Kilgore has thrown for 1,422 yards with 9 TD and 3 INT...and he's done it with a solid 67.4 completion percentage.

The offensive line has only given up 4 sacks this year. They have a veteran group up front with two seniors and two juniors.

Their offense has been decidedly better on the road than at home. They've got 11 touchdowns away from Murfreesboro and just four at the Murph. They've also been slow starters this year - just two touchdowns in the first quarter and just 7 of their 27 TD have been in the first half. Mississippi State on the other hand has scored 62% of their points in the first half, and 15 of their 25 touchdowns.

MT's Defense

The royal-colored looters will allow some points - 27.2 points per game they average. This is to MSU's 16.3. They are allowing 442 yards per game, 96th in the country. The pass defense has been the bigger trouble between the two.

Their best defensive players are linebacker Leighton Gasque and safety Kevin Byard. Gasque has 3 sacks on the year and 14 tackles. Byard has 40 tackles and one of their three INT on the year.

Obscure Stat

Their best fortune has occured when wearing the blue on white uniform combo: 11-7.

Overview

There is no doubt Mississippi State is the better team here, but MTSU won't have any fear coming into Starkville. They are an excellent road team and have proved they have the potential to beat quality teams. This game has TRAP written on it as far as the eye can see. State won't need to be at it's peak, but they can't get caught looking ahead to Bama or they won't be able to take care of business.

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