Middle Tennessee State (1-0) at Maryland (1-0)
College Park, MD
Saturday Sept. 9, 6:00 pm
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Head Coach: Rick Stockstill (1-0 in first year)
Conference: Sun Belt
2005 Record: 4-7
Series History: Maryland leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Maryland 45 - Middle Tennessee 27, 2000 at Maryland
The Blue Raiders won a defensive battle over future Maryland opponent Florida International, 7-6. Running back Eugene Gross scored Middle Tennessee's only touchdown of the game after Florida International missed the extra point attempt following their only touchdown. A 7-6 halftime score held up and Middle Tennessee won Rick Stockstill's first game as a head coach.
The Blue Raiders are led by an experienced backfield of record-setting seniors RB Eugene Gross and QB Clint Marks. In the Florida International game, Marks passed current Buffalo Bill Kelly Holcomb for second on Middle Tennessee's career completions list, but passed for only 79 yards on 17 attempts. The 5-foot-9, 209-pound Gross led the Sun Belt Conference in scoring with 14 total TDs and all conference RBs in
receptions with 33. He was the team's lone offensive threat last week as he rushed for 82 yards and a TD.
The Blue Raiders will start three wide receivers, with Bobby Williams being the team's leading returning pass catcher. Last season Williams caught 22 passes for 303 yards and 1 TD and Taron Henry hauled in 20 for 192 yards. The other starting WR, junior Jonathan Grigsby, is a former walk-on who made his first career start against FIU. TE Clint Corder is used mostly as a blocker. He caught only one pass last season and none against FIU. The team's WRs caught only eight passes against FIU.
Middle Tennessee's best offensive lineman is RT Germayle Franklin, who has started 29 consecutive games and was a preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selection. Two other starters, RG Brandon Nix and LT Franklin Dunbar, combined for 11 starts last year. Meanwhile, C Paul Cantrell and LG Mark Thompson made their first career starts against Florida International. It is not a small offensive line: Nix is the lightest starter at 296 pounds.
Defensive line is an inexperienced and undersized position for The Blue Raiders, who they average 254 pounds across the line and have only 19 career starts amongst them. Junior DE Sean Mosley accounts for all but four of them. On the DT two-deep, only sophomore Trevor Jenkins (280 pounds) weighs in at more than 247 pounds.
The linebacking corps is a senior-laden group. All three starters and the team's top reserve are all in their final season. WLB J.K. Sabb led the team in tackles last season and was placed on the preseason Butkus Award watch list.
The secondary is Middle Tennessee's most experienced position, with three starters who have at least 10 career starts under their belts. Senior CB Reggie Doucet made his first career start against FIU. The secondary held Florida International to 150 passing yards on 39 attempts last week.
MTSU Special Teams:
Last week senior K/P Colby Smith was named the Sun Belt Conference special teams player of the week after averaging 43.4 yards on nine punts. He also accounted for the winning extra point and he had one of the plays of the game when he unleashed a 79-yard punt from his own end zone with 6:31 remaining in the game. He also missed a 40-yard FG attempt. None of the returners have handled that job prior to this season.
For the second consecutive week, Maryland should be able to
overpower a physically overmatched defensive line. Last week, both Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore flirted with the 100 yard mark; Either or both could surpass it this week. Middle Tennessee struggled offensively at times last season and, judging from last week's 7-6 win over FIU, they could have
similar problems this year. Their best bet is to use their size up front on the offensive line and let Gross find the holes to make plays. If Maryland can shut that down, it could be a very long day for the Blue Raiders.
Prediction: Maryland 41 - Middle Tennessee 10
-- Compiled by Mike Hogan