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October 4, 2012

Week 6 Preview: MT vs ULM

This Saturday the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (3-1, 1-0) will play host to the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks (2-2) for homecoming weekend. The Blue Raiders enter the weekend on the heels of what was quite possibly the biggest win in team history. Middle Tennessee will be looking to extend their current three game winning streak to four games and stay undefeated in conference play. Kickoff is set for 2:30 PM.

Last week, the Blue Raiders traveled east to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - a team that has owned them in the past two meetings. Middle Tennessee made sure that would not happen again as the Blue Raiders were able to contain Georgia Tech's triple option attack while making highlight reel plays in route to a dominating 49-28 victory. The player of the game was undoubtedly RB Benny Cunningham - who ran for career highs with 217 yards and five TD's.

As for the Warhawks of Louisiana Monroe, they went on the road as well taking on Tulane. Monroe was able to continue their fast start this season as they absolutely dominated the game from start to finish, defeating the Green Wave 63-10. The Warhawk offense, which is led by QB Kolton Browning, was able to gain 553 total yards - 331 passing and 222 rushing - while the defense was able to hold Tulane to a measly 151 total yards.

These two teams met last season when Middle Tennessee traveled down to the bayou in hopes of turning their disappointing season around. Unfortunately for the Blue Raiders, this game would prove to be too much. The Warhawks offense came out swinging, jumping to a 35-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Middle Tennessee was hardly able to do anything on either side of the ball, losing 42-14 and dropping their first game to ULM since head coach Rick Stockstill took over the reigns of the program.

Under Stockstill, the Blue Raiders are 5-1 against ULM and Middle Tennessee now leads the overall series 9-3.

KEYS TO THE GAME - OFFENSE

Heading in to this Saturday's game there will be a few things the Blue Raider offense will have to do to continue their winning streak.

The first key will be making the most of every possession of the ball. Middle Tennessee will be going up against a high scoring offense, so this games has the makings of an epic shootout. QB Logan Kilgore and the offense will have to avoid turning the ball over, which is something Kilgore has been greatly improved on this year. In addition, the ball carriers will need to secure the football in their runs, something that has killed some important drives on the season.

The offense will be best served to keep feeding the rock to those running backs - with Benny Cunningham back to form following an early season shoulder injury and his stable of talented backs behind him, MT looks poised to put up some of the best rushing stats since Dwone Hicks was running for six on a regular basis.

In addition to limiting the turnovers, the Blue Raiders will have to take advantage of an average defense. So far on the season, Monroe has allowed an average of 373 yards per game - 246 passing and 127 rushing - while also allowing opposing offenses to score almost 30 points per game.

The Blue Raider offense should be able to move the ball on the Warhawk defense as they have moved to a more balanced attack that has shown a great improvement in the last few weeks. Middle Tennessee is averaging an impressive 443 total yards per game - 231 through the air and 212 on the ground. For the Blue Raiders to move to a four game winning streak they will have to continue moving the ball with effectiveness. ULM has a questionable secondary and if the running game is on point for MT, it should open things up for Kilgore to pick apart that secondary of the Warhawks.

KEYS TO THE GAME - DEFENSE

As for the defense, this will be a scary matchup and possibly one of the toughest offenses they will have to go against all season, which is one reason why the Warhawks have been in every game they have played in.

The defense for Middle Tennessee has been improved on the season, but has room to grow as they still allow over 200 rushing yards and 231 passing yards per game. To be able to win this game, the Blue Raiders will need to apply the same gameplan that they did against Georgia Tech - they do not have to totally stop Monroe's high powered offense, but they have to be able contain it and slow them down. The Warhawk offense is one of the best in the entire nation so far on the young season, ranking in the top 15 and averaging 518 yards per game - 321 passing and 196 rushing.

If there is one player the defense will have to focus on it would have to be QB Browning, who is the leader of the team. Much like NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young, Browning is not just an effective passer, but a guy who can surprise you and run the ball as well. Browning has accounted for over 1,300 yards and 14 TD's so far on the season. Middle Tennessee will have to contain him and try to force him into making mistakes, something that Browning is not known for.

The Blue Raiders will have to play smart and limit their mental mistakes keep Browning and the Warhawks from lighting up the scoreboard. The defense will have to do all they can to help the Middle Tennessee offense from trying to overcome a big deficit.

PREDICTION - MT 38, ULM 49

This game has all the makings to be one of the most exciting games to watch this weekend, unless of course you are a person that likes defensive battles. Look for Kilgore and the offense to move the ball with ease, but I do not see them being able to keep up with Monroe.

Expect Monroe to score early and often as Browning continues his hot start on the season. Because of this, Middle Tennessee will have to play catch up, but will not be able to match the Warhawks touchdown for touchdown.

The game will be competitive, but the Blue Raiders lose to who I think could be the eventual Sun Belt Conference champions.



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