Coming into this game, one wouldn't believe that the MTSU squad was any better with their running game. Averaging only 141 yards a game. I say only because Dwone Hicks, who MTSU was hyping for a Heisman trophy preseason, was expected to be gaining over 100 yards per game himself. Then you add the very talented ReShard Lee to the mix, and 200 a game may have been in the game plan for head coach Andy McCollum.
But things have not worked that way, and because of that the first year starter Andrico Hines has been sent to the wolves. Although the numbers indicate a very smart quarterback, with only one interception this season, he has been very conservative with the throws that he is making, keeping them short and sweet, minus some fantastic tosses during the great comeback against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
So far he is averaging almost 200 yards a game, with a completion ratio of around 63 percent. Very efficient, but obviously not enough to get wins. The MTSU team is having a hard time making it work when it counts. Although they are 3 for 3 on forth down, they are only 8-26 on third down, something that needs to improve if they are going to compete each game.
What has been somewhat lackluster this season that was supposed to be a strength for the Blue Raiders was the offensive line, who are young, talented, and deep, not to mention extremely large. Across the front line, MTSU has players at 301, 342, 273 (okay not that impressive, but centers are usually smaller), 330 and 305. These are not players that the UK defensive line is going to be able to push around.
Of this offensive line group, the only player who has lived up to expectation sis the big man Jonathan Barry, who has absolutely blown up some of the best Defensive lineman in the country, otherwise known as the second stringers for Alabama and Tennessee (ha ha). It should be an interesting match up, for he will most likely be going against Caudill and Ellery Moore all night long. Can the quickness of the UK D-line upset MTSU's O-line? Should be something to watch.
MTSU's numbers really should not be looked at all, if I were to be truly honest. They have been on the road against two very good SEC teams, and to label them as bad or good in any area is completely unjustified. What MTSU has that stats cannot begin to explain is the fact that they have been looking at UK for two weeks without stop. They have a ton of talent, kids who were recruited by the "big boys", and are just waiting to pounce on a big named team to make a name for itself.
This is their opportunity to do a number of things. First off, gain some respect in the world of college football. Secondly, it returns their trek of Hicks for Heisman back onto the track it started on. If they win this game, it could mean no losses for the rest of the season. If they lose, it just spoils the chance for them to put a big win on a hot team before conference play.
Expect the unexpected. The past two weeks the Wildcats have been on an emotional low, playing teams who were obviously outmatched talent wise. MTSU matches up very well against UK's talent, and the game really comes down to coaching. With only one week to prepare, the UK coaching staff is already a step behind.
Man, just talking about it has got my blood pumping, ready to see some football!
Players to watch on Offense for the Blue Raiders:#9 Andrico Hines QB
#4 Dwone Hicks RB
#24 ReShard Lee RB
#27 Tyrone Calico WR