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November 16, 2012

Week 12 Preview: MT at South Alabama

This Saturday the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (6-3, 4-1) travel down south to take on the South Alabama Jaguars (2-8, 1-5) as both teams meet for the first time as Sun Belt Conference mates. However, the Blue Raiders will not be looking to give South Alabama a warm welcome as they try to keep their conference title hopes alive and secure their status as a bowl-worthy team. Kickoff is set for 2:30 PM.

The Blue Raiders are coming off of their second bye week of the season after defeating SBC rival Western Kentucky. The previous bye week was between the Memphis and Georgia Tech game, and anyone associated with the Blue Raider football team knows what that bye week resulted in.

As for the Jaguars, they come into this game on a three-game losing streak, but their record does not tell the whole story on this team. The Jaguars have remained competitive in just about all of their contests, losing a combined six games by eight points or less.

Last week, USA went on the road to take on a slumping North Texas team. The Jaguars started the game off on the right foot, taking an early 7-0 lead, but unfortunately their hot beginning would cool off. From that point on the Mean Green found their groove and turned that into a 24-14 win even though South Alabama dominated the stat sheet.

OFFENSIVE BREAKDOWN

Offensively, Middle Tennessee has been clicking on all aspects as they have scored over 30 points in three of the last four games. Defensively the Jaguars have allowed over 30 points in seven of their ten games. On the season, USA allows an average of 358 yards per game - 206 passing and 152 rushing - while also giving up 29 points per game.

The Blue Raiders are now averaging 415 yards per game on the season - 230 passing and 185 rushing - while averaging 31 points per game.

Going into this game it looks like Middle Tennessee will have the upper hand when their offense is on the field, and just like they did early on in the Western Kentucky game, the offense will try to focus on running the ball.

Since the loss of Benny Cunningham, freshman sensation Jordan Parker has stepped in with 270 rushing yards in the last three games, with a career-best 149 of those coming against WKU. This trend will need to continue to keep the Blue Raider offense balanced and more of a complete threat.

If the Jaguars want to stop the Blue Raider offense, they will have to rely heavily on LB Jake Johnson. A fierce competitor, Johnson leads the team with 98 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two sacks and one fumble recovery.

DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWN

Looking at the Blue Raiders defense on paper you would not think they are a team that has won six games so far on the season, but stats do not always tell the whole story and Middle Tennessee can say they do just enough to get the job done.

On the season, MT ranks 93rd in total defense, allowing 440 yards per game - 258 passing and 182 rushing. The defense will be going up against an average offense as South Alabama averages 341 yards per game - 203 passing and 138 rushing - while only producing 20 points a game.

Even though the Blue Raiders will be going up against a less than stellar offense, they will still need to do all they can to stop a hungry USA team, something that they have a hard time doing at times this season.

MT will have to keep their eye on USA's dual threat QB Ross Metheny. On the season, Metheny has struggled at times, but he has the ability to make big plays as he has scored a total of 10 touchdowns on the season.

The Blue Raiders will have to work on their "bend but don't break" style of defense because you can only allow so many cracks on the defense before the glass shatters. This style of defense forces the MT offense to play nearly perfect football, and unfortunately that is not going to happen more often than not. This will be a good week for the Blue Raiders to fine tune their defense and get ready for their last two games.

PREDICTION: MT 35, SOUTH ALABAMA 20

I look for this game to be dominated by the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders from beginning to end. From top to bottom, they appear to be just too much for the South Alabama Jaguars.

Expect to see QB Logan Kilgore continue to play at a high level, something he has done for the better part of the entire season, as he will throw for over 250 yards with three TD's. RB Jordan Parker will go over the century mark and find paydirt at least once in the game.

WR Anthony Amos will continue to bully defenders around and should have an impressive afternoon with eight catches for over 100 yards and a score.

This win will give the Blue Raiders their third straight win and their seventh overall as they look to carry momentum into their game against Troy Trojans, a team that Head Coach Rick Stockstill has yet to defeat.



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