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October 14, 2013

Say Hello to the Bye

Sometimes a team's bye week could not come at a better time. For the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider football team, truer words were never spoken right now.

Reeling from a three-game losing streak and fresh off of a 34-7 drubbing on the road against North Texas, the Blue Raiders get a reprieve this week before welcoming the Thundering Herd of Marshall to town next Thursday for a nationally televised matchup with the East Division leaders of Conference USA.

The bye simply could not have come at a better time. The only problem is that Marshall also gets the weekend off to prepare for the Blue Raiders.

So what does MT do in this situation? Their season is in turmoil. Their quarterback situation is up in the air. The offense, in general, has been as ineffective as one can remember over the past few weeks. Everything that could go wrong lately has, well, gone wrong.

For starters, MT needs to take advantage of this extra preparation time to get some bodies healthy and back on the field. Injuries, especially on the offensive line, have played a big part in some, if not most, of MT's recent struggles. Getting some of those big uglies back in the mix will certainly help a unit that has sputtered in the running game as well as the passing game since the FAU game.

Up next, it would be advantageous for head coach Rick Stockstill to address his quarterback situation. Senior QB Logan Kilgore was benched last week in favor of RS freshman Austin Grammer, who started out hot against UNT before cooling off drastically as the game wore on.

Perhaps Stockstill was sending a message to his senior gunslinger, whose decision-making has been questioned for the better part of the season. Or, maybe, Stockstill saw something in the young gun during practice that led to him making the switch after MT stalled on their opening possessions in Denton. Either way, this back and forth on who plays is not good for the dynamic of the team, especially the chemistry, and it needs to be addressed - even if only internally - as soon as possible.

The biggest problem that arose from benching Kilgore was that Grammer did not play well. So now, you have created a situation where if you play one over the other and that guy struggles, you, as the coach, will be picked apart by the masses.

The way I see it, when 90 percent of the people cannot spell the backup QB's name correctly, he has not done enough to be the justified starter. You are probably better off going with the experienced arm. Just my two cents on the matter.

Once Stockstill settles the QB situation, it becomes time for him to lock himself in a room with his coordinators to develop the game plan going forward.

The Thundering Herd boast a team that ranks No. 32 nationally in points scored (36.2 PPG), and No. 20 nationally in points allowed (18.3 PPG). From a conference standpoint, a win against MU would keep MT in the race for the East Division crown. The Thundering Herd are undefeated in CUSA play as of now, but MU has yet to face off against ECU, who lost this past weekend themselves to open the door for others.

That said, a victory next Thursday would absolutely keep MT in the thick of things, but for that to happen, they will need to formulate and execute the perfect game plan. To do that, Stockstill and his handpicked staff of coaching minds need to barricade themselves from the world and pick apart the Thundering Herd on film. MU is not unbeatable - FAU proved that last week - but to get the upper hand, MT will have to outcoach them.

It is easy to be down on the Blue Raiders right now. This week, I voted MT out of the top five for the weekly Rivals.com CUSA Power Rankings for the first time this season. However, once MT gets past Marshall, every game from there out is as winnable as Blue Raider fans could hope for.

There is still plenty to play for this season that much is for sure right now - even if nothing else really is at the moment.



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