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October 27, 2012

Week 9 Preview: MT vs UNT

BREAKING DOWN THE GAME

This Saturday the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (4-3, 2-1) play host to the North Texas Mean Green (3-4, 2-1) in what has become the annual Black Out game in support of armed forces. The Blue Raiders will be looking to bounce back after a blowout loss to undefeated Mississippi State as they try to stay in the race for the Sun Belt Conference championship. Kickoff is set for 2:30 PM.

Last week, The Blue Raiders traveled to Starkville, Mississippi, looking to play spoilers for the second time this season. In a closely contested first half, it looked as if MT might have a shot to pull off the upset, trailing by only seven points midway through the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Blue Raiders, the Bulldogs were in no mood to lie around. RB LaDarius Perkins would break a 65-yard TD run that started a Bulldog scoring frenzy. MSU would go on to score four more touchdowns and take an easy 45-3 victory.

As for the Mean Green, they are working with an extra week to prepare for Middle Tennessee after pulling a comeback upset victory over Sun Belt foe Louisiana Lafayette. UNT battled back from a second half deficit to stun ULL and put themselves in the running for the SBC crown.

Last year, the Blue Raiders traveled to Denton in hopes of ending their atrocious season on a good note and snap their five-game losing streak. For Mean Green fans, the game could not have gone any better as UNT scored early, and scored often. UNT would literally run all over the overmatched Blue Raider defense and would finish the day with 464 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Middle Tennessee had no answer, and could only muster one touchdown on the day, losing in a 59-7 beat down.

Since 2002, the Blue Raiders trail the Mean Green in the all-time series 4-6.

OFFENSIVE BREAKDOWN

Heading into this weekend's game, Middle Tennessee will be going up against a middle of the road defense in North Texas. The Mean Green rank 60th in the nation as they allow 391 total yards per game - 225 yards through the air and166 on the ground - while allowing an average of 25 points per game. When it comes to Blue Raiders, there offense statistically is just a little better than average as they rank 53rd in the nation with 415 total yards per game - 229 passing and 186 rushing - while scoring 29 points per game.

The game plan for the Blue Raiders going into Saturday should be to focus on the running game. Last week, they were able to run for over 100 yards against a stellar SEC defense and should not have a problem running against UNT. The loss of Benny Cunningham has allowed RB's Reggie Whatley and true freshman Jordan Parker to form a committee of thunder and lightning. Drayton Calhoun is also going to get his share of carries and if he can find his form, the Blue Raiders will be back to where the want to be in regards to depth.

On the season, when the Blue Raiders have rushed for over 150 yards, they are 4-0. Look for MT to lean heavy on the run, because that is where their offense has performed at its best this season. If MT can have success in the running game, it should allow them to control the clock and give them a better chance to win.

Then there is the potent combination of QB Logan Kilgore and his go-to target, WR Anthony Amos. When the Blue Raiders are clicking in the running game, it opens up Kilgore to get more creative with the check-offs at the line of scrimmage, which usually benefits the highly reliable Amos.

DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWN

When it comes to the Blue Raiders defense, they are not very much improved from last season when the Mean Green had a field day. Middle Tennessee ranks 93rd in the nation as they allow 442 yards per game - 259 passing and 183 rushing, while allowing 29 points per game.

Just like the offense, the Blue Raider defense will have to focus on the run as North Texas will be looking to do expose what is a below average run defense. On the season, the Mean Green average 184 rushing yards per game. The rushing game is anchored by an excellent offensive line that has only allowed three sacks on the season and has done a great job of opening running lanes for the backs.

This game will come down to the play of the defensive line. The big guys in the trenches will have to do all they can to prevent a repeat of last season's shellacking. MT will have to focus on getting a good rush off the ball and getting off of their blocks as to not allow any wide open holes for RB Brandin Byrd to bust through and into to the second level. If the Blue Raiders can contain the Mean Green running game, it will help their chances of coming out on top.

PREDICTION: MT 27, NORTH TEXAS 30

This game is about as evenly matched as it can possibly get and could possibly go either way for both teams. I give the edge to North Texas due to them coming off a big win and having an extra week to prepare for the Blue Raiders, who are reeling after a demoralizing loss at the hands of Mississippi State.

Offensively, look for Middle Tennessee to continue their poor play at home this season as they are just 1-2 at Floyd Stadium. Whatley and Parker will combine for over 150 yards, and Kilgore should have a solid game, but it still will not be enough as the team comes up just short.

Defensively, the Blue Raiders will struggle just like they did last year against North Texas and just as they have against the majority of their competition this year. The MT defense will allow over 200 yards rushing as they struggle to contain the Mean Green offense, surrendering a late touchdown to give North Texas the win, whilst essentially knocking the Blue Raiders out of the Sun Belt race in the same token.



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