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Middle Tennessee at Clemson
September 13th, 2003 5:00 PM EST
The Blue Raiders from Murfreesboro, Tennessee will invade Death Valley for the Tigers 3rd contest.
Middle Tennessee will not be intimidated by Death Valley upon their arrival in Clemson. The Blue Raiders will have already played at Georgia the week before. In addition, Middle Tennessee played four games in 2002 in big time college football stadiums. The Blue Raiders lost to Alabama (39-34), Tennessee (26-3), and Kentucky (44-22) in 2002. Also, the Blue Raiders defeated Vanderbilt in Nashville 21-20 in the 2002 campaign.
Middle Tennessee plays in the Sun Belt Conference, where they are ranked anywhere from 2nd to 7th in the various pre-season publications. The Blue Raiders are coached by Andy McCollum, who is 21-24 in four seasons in Murfreesboro.
This will be the third game of the season for Middle Tennessee. They open the 2003 season at home versus Florida Atlantic and play Georgia in Athens the week before the Clemson game.
The game is scheduled for a 5:00 p.m. kickoff (thank you again Terry Don Phillips).
|Middle Tennessee Quarterback Andrico Hines completed 149-of-236 passes for 1753 yards, 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 2002.|
The Blue Raiders return 7 starters on the offensive side of the ball, including Preseason All-Conference tackle Brandon Westbrook. Middle Tennessee also returns its starting quarterback in senior Andrico Hines, who accounted for over 2000 all-purpose yards last year.
On defense, the Blue Raiders return 9 starters, including the entire secondary that is made up of 4 solid seniors.
The kicking situation is in good hands with Preseason All-Conference punter Robert Billings, who averaged a whopping 42 yards a punt last year. Place kicker Brian Kelly also returns, having missed only 3 field goals the entire season last year.
Middle Tennessee Strengths
Quarterback Andrico Hines has good size (6-2, 212) and is a dual threat to both throw the ball and run. The multidimensional Hines will have experienced receivers to throw to in Kerry Wright, Wardell Alsup and Chris Henry.
Although the secondary for the Blue Raiders was erratic at best last year, the fact that they return almost everyone from that unit is a plus. In addition, the defensive backfield is made up of 4 seniors that have plenty of game experience under their belt. Certainly, it would be logical to expect Middle Tennessee to get better play from their secondary this year with the experience they have developed at those positions.
Another positive for the Blue Raiders is the fact that their entire team will have at least played in one "big time" football setting the week before in Athens. But, the vast majority of players will be playing in their 4th or 5th "big time" football setting dating back to the past several years. The Blue Raiders will not be star struck by Death Valley, a positive for a team from a smaller school trying to pull the upset.
Middle Tennessee Weaknesses
The biggest weakness for the Blue Raiders is clearly their lack of size. Their wide receivers average 5-feet, 8-inches and 164 pounds. The starting defensive line averages only 6'-3" and 286 pounds. And their linebackers are not exactly bulky, averaging 6'-0" and 228 pounds.
While Middle Tennessee does return 7 players on offense, 2 of those replacements will come on the offensive line in junior guard Bill Brasch and sophomore center Shavaskey Brown.
Defensively, unless improvement is made by the Blue Raiders (which is possible), Clemson should be able to score at will. Middle Tennessee gave up a whopping 28 points a game in 2002 and that would spell disaster if a similar performance by the Blue Raiders were thrown against Clemson's high-powered offense.
|A steady dose of the Tiger running game and Yusef Kelly should be one the big keys to a Clemson victory against Middle Tennessee State.|
Unlike the week before when the Tigers mentally were not into the game, Clemson should return focused against Middle Tennessee. It will be the last game the Tigers play before heading into conference play, so the Clemson coaches will surely be tweaking some things in preparation.
Because Middle Tennessee plays Georgia the week before, both the Blue Raiders and the Tigers will have an idea of what type of team to expect as the game approaches. If the Blue Raiders play well against Georgia, it will surely catch the eye of the Tiger players. If UGA routs Middle Tennessee, the Tigers will have a number to shoot for.
A final intangible that goes against Clemson a little is the guarded nature of the game. With a big game coming against Georgia Tech in Atlanta the next week, the Tiger coaches may try to keep the game plan simple and concentrate on execution. That formula does not usually spell a blowout victory.
Clemson will be favored in the 10-15 point range against the Blue Raiders.
Clemson Trudges Through Middle Tennessee 34-14. Clemson will move to 3-0 on the season by completing a workman-like victory over the Blue Raiders. While Clemson will play more focused than they did against Furman, Middle Tennessee has enough good players (especially quarterback Andrico Hines) to keep this game from getting ugly. Expect a guarded game plan by the Clemson coaches with a good deal of running by the Tigers.
Clemson moves to 3-0 and continues to receive a smattering of "Other Votes" in the Top 25 polls.
Scott Rhymer can be reached at email@example.com. Scott and CUTigers.com publisher Roy Philpott are the co-hosts of the CUTigers.com Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM, which airs 2 hours prior to the Tiger Tailgate Show on Clemson Gamedays.