In the summer, I wrote a way too early preview of this game. I told you a bit about the Blue Raiders and the players that could make an impact for them. One player I mentioned was RB Benny Cunningham. Earlier this week it was announced that the main cog in the Blue Raider offense would be lost for the year due to knee injury. Cunningham had rushed for 600 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, which was good for 13th best in the nation so far this season. He also contributed nine catches for 109 yards.
This season the Blue Raiders are averaging just over 195 yards rushing per game, 120 of those come from Cunningham. MTSU has rushed for 15 touchdowns, with 11 coming from Cunningham. Not only does a lot of MTSU's offense come on the ground, but most of what they get on the ground comes from Benny Cunningham.
One interesting note, however, is that while they have run the ball more, they have put the ball on the ground 11 times, losing eight of those fumbles. In the air, they have only given the ball away three times. These stats are obviously skewed because they run the ball more, but something to keep an eye on as they will have to get more going through the air as the season goes on without Cunningham now.
On the defensive side, bulldog fans might remember the name of the Co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach of the Blue Raiders, Tyrone Nix. Yes, the same Tyrone Nix that led Ole Miss to two terrible defenses in 2010 and 2011, with 2011 being an all-time awful defense. So Dan Mullen and company should be able to take it to the Blue Raider defense, right?
It is very likely. MTSU is giving up over 250 yards in the air and 175 on the ground per game. This should mean more of the same for the Dawgs, balance. Tyler Russell should have good game, as he will be the best quarterback the Blue Raiders have faced this season. Also look for LaDarius Perkins to take that 175 number and bump it up even more with the help of Nick Griffin. The Bulldog offense should have no problem moving and scoring the ball in this one.
So with the most productive player for the Blue Raiders out and Tyrone Nix running the defense, this game should be an absolute blowout, right?
To borrow a phrase from Lee Corso (I know, I apologize in advance): not so fast, my friend. On paper, this game is already a W for Dan Mullen and Company. In reality, it could be a trap game.
MSU is coming off their biggest win of the season and a huge atmosphere. They have Alabama coming up in a week, with talks of College Gameday being in attendance for that one in Tuscaloosa. The Dawgs are undefeated and gaining momentum nationally. This is just the boring homecoming game. Not to mention they will be playing a team that is giving up almost 30 points a game, that has a loss to McNeese State. However, MTSU did take down Georgia Tech (yeah I know, I know, but stay with me here). They also played UL-Monroe, the SEC's honorary member this year, closer than the final scored appeared. MTSU will get up and play hard in this one and try to play for their fallen star. MTSU knows it has a chance to shine in this game, and they know the Dawgs might be looking past this one.
I'll say the Dawgs may give up a few points early, but in the end, they're facing a Tyrone Nix defense and even if MTSU's offense survives the loss of Benny Cunningham and comes to play, MSU should score a lot in this one.
MSU should enjoy this homecoming win, as they have a pretty stiff 5-game stretch coming up to close out the season. My vote goes out to tBraden for homecoming queen. What say you guys?