Against All Odds

A preview of the Blue Raiders 3rd game against #2 LSU.

See if you've heard this one before. Middle Tennessee is playing a top ranked team and is expected to lose by 40 or more points. Last week against eighth-ranked Louisville, the Blue Raiders hung tough with the high powered Cardinals but fell short in the end. If Rick Stockstill's team can put on a similar performance against the second-ranked LSU Tigers on Saturday night, the Las Vegas betters and bookies will have some paying up to do.

The key to the Tigers success over the last few years has been defense. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey was rated by as the overall best player on LSU's roster in the preseason. Dorsey has lived up to that title as he currently leads the team in solo tackles with ten. His unit shutout Mississippi State and held ninth-ranked Virginia Tech to only seven points in the first two games.

While the defense has held its first two opponents to only seven points, the offense has done more than its share to put the games away as well. Led by quarterback Matt Flynn, the Tigers offense has averaged over 46 points per game this season including a 48 point outburst against Virginia Tech last week. Flynn has thrown for 345 yards and rushed for 77 yards this season.

Other offensive playmakers for the Tigers include wide receiver Early Doucet and running back Jacob Hester. Doucet has already caught 15 passes for 153 yards and two scores on the young season. Hester is averaging 5.7 yards per carry this season, a yard higher than his 2006 average.

Middle was able to find success against a previously well thought of Louisville defense by making the big plays when needed. Running backs DeMarco McNair and Phillip Tanner had huge days running and receiving the ball against the Cardinals while quarterback Joe Craddock was consistent and accurate through most of the game.

The key for Middle to keep this one close is to put a great emphasis on defense and tackling. The Blue Raiders gave up over 700 yards to the Louisville offense last Thursday including a school record 275 rushing yards to Cardinals running back Anthony Allen.

The Blue Raiders must limit penalties in order to maintain drives against the vaunted LSU defense. The crowd at "Death Valley" makes it very difficult for the opposition to hear the snap counts and audible adjustments made at the line of scrimmage. Tiger Stadium is the sixth largest college football stadium in the nation, but according to most it's by far the loudest on a Saturday night. Paul "Bear" Bryant described Tiger Stadium as the worst place in the world for a visiting team well before expansion was done on the stadium.

The odds are against Middle Tennessee but if the Blue Raiders can start quickly as they did against Louisville, maybe 92,000 people won't be quite as loud... Maybe.

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