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December 29, 2013

Bowl Preview: MT vs Navy

BOWL PREVIEW: MIDDLE TENNESSEE VS NAVY:

The time has come and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4, 6-2) are bowling for the fourth time under head coach Rick Stockstill. This time around, MT will head west to Fort Worth, Texas where they will take on the Navy Midshipmen (8-4) in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.

The Blue Raiders closed the season having won their last five games after struggling through most of the first half of the season. A lot of the early season struggles were due to some key injuries, but MT was able to fight through them and save their season.

Now that the Blue Raiders have been able to rest since for an entire month, most of the team should be healthy and ready for Monday morning's game.

As for the Midshipmen, they had some struggles in the middle part of their season, but they were able to win their last four games behind the dynamic play of local product QB Keenan Reynolds.

Reynolds broke the record for most rushing touchdowns this past season with 29 by showing off his athleticism, while also throwing for eight more scores.

The game on Monday will be the first meeting between the two teams and will kickoff at 10:45 a.m. CT and will air live on ESPN.

THE GAME BREAKDOWN:

Offense:

Middle Tennessee has had their fair share of ups and downs on offense this season, but by the end of the year, they had found their groove and were able to move the ball at will against pretty much every defense they faced. The Blue Raiders finished the season averaging 31 points, 207 passing yards and 208 rushing yards per game.

Senior QB Logan Kilgore led the way in passing as he completed 61 percent of his attempts for 2,289 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Blue Raider rushing attack was led by sophomore RB Jordan Parker, who finished the season with 741 yards and six touchdowns.

Eight different Blue Raiders finished the season with two or more rushing touchdowns. As for the WR group, senior Tavarres Jefferson led the way with 41 receptions for 532 and five touchdowns, all being team highs.

The Navy offense has been rolling all season, putting up some pretty impressive point totals, but they still struggle in some areas. On the gound, Navy ranks second in the nation, averaging 322 yards per game. In the passing game, however, they are ranked 122, averaging just 92 yards per game.

Even though their offense is predicated on the run, teams have had a hard time stopping the option, which has allowed the Midshipmen to average an impressive 34 points per game.

QB Keenan Reynolds led the way this year in both passing and rushing for Navy, compiling a total of 2,298 yards and 37 total touchdowns.

Defense:

The Middle Tennessee defense, at times, was the strong point of the Blue Raiders. At times, MT gave up big plays and some big yards, but they also made numerous big plays that helped to seal up games. The Blue Raiders defense allowed an average of 26 points, 219 yards passing and 186 rushing yards per game this season.

MT finished the regular season ranked fifth nationally in forced turnovers with 31, and third nationally in fumble recoveries with 16. Sophomore LB T.T. Barber led the way for the Middle Tennessee defense with 112 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, three sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

The defense for the Midshipmen was either feast or famine all season. In four games, Navy held opposing offenses to just 14 points, but they also allowed over 30 points in five games. Overall, the Midshipmen allowed an average of 26 points, 216 passing yards and 182 rushing yards per game.

In the turnover department, the Midshipmen finished the season forcing 20 turnovers while losing just eight, giving them a respectable +8 margin.

Navy was led by LB Cody Peterson, who finished the season with 135 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack.

THE PREDICTION:

The battle between the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and the Navy Midshipmen will come down to which defenses can actually limit their opponents rushing attack. Both teams have top-notch rushing attacks, but with completely different styles.

If you are looking at just the landscape of the game, it favors the Blue Raiders slightly, because of the extra week that they have had to prepare for the Navy offense. With that said, Navy will not be dealing with the same rust factor that could hinder the Blue Raiders in the early goings of the game.

Look for both teams to combine to put up over 500 yards on the ground in this game, and look for the contest to be a high scoring one with both teams posting over 30 points each.

In the end, however, I expect the Midshipmen to pull out a close game with a late Reynolds touchdown to seal the deal. This game could honestly come down to who has the ball last.

Either way - get your popcorn ready, folks, because this should be a fun and entertaining affair.

Final Score: MT 35, Navy 42



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