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October 14, 2009

Six pack: MT going for history

There is the possibility for a record crowd at Floyd Stadium Saturday, but that isn't the only history that could be made when Middle Tennessee squares off with Mississippi State.

The Raiders have a chance to do something no Sun Belt team has ever done.

GoMiddle.com breaks down that and six other game related items in this week's Six Pack.

GOING FOR THREE ... AND HISTORY: A win over Mississippi State would give the Blue Raiders three non-conference wins over FBS (1-A) opponents this season. How many times has that been accomplished in Sun Belt history? Zero. A win over the Bulldogs would add Mississippi State to a list of non-conference victims that currently includes Memphis and Maryland. Only four teams in Sun Belt history have won three non-conference games in a season, but in each case at least one victory came against an FCS (1-AA) opponent. MT accomplished the feat in 2001, but one of the wins came against Troy, which was a 1-AA member at the time. Florida Atlantic won three non-conference games last year, but one of those came against Western Kentucky, which was only a provisional FBS member before officially joining the ranks for the 2009 season.

RAIDERS IN COLD WEATHER: The forecast for Saturday's game has continued to get cooler over the last few days, with current reports calling for game time temperature to be below 50 degrees. MT has only played two games in the Stockstill era where the game time temperature was below 50 and both of those came last season. The Blue Raiders knocked off Western Kentucky 21-10 in 47 degree weather and dominated North Texas 52-13 in 43 degree weather.

BULLDOG GROUND GAME IS POWERFUL: Despite Mississippi State's poor 2-4 record, no opponent has consistently been able to stop the Bulldogs running game, led by running back Anthony Dixon. MSU has rushed for at least 150 yards in all six of its games and has topped 200 yards on the ground in four games. If trends hold to form, MT needs to find a way to slow that onslaught down to have a good chance at victory. The Blue Raiders are just 11-21 in the Stockstill era when allowing more than 100 rushing yards to an opponent.

FANS TAKING NOTICE OF THE RAIDERS: It's still up for debate if Saturday's game will be an official sellout or break the Floyd Stadium all time attendance record, but it's certainly safe to say the crowd will be in the top five all time at Floyd Stadium. When the final number is announced, seven of the top 11 crowds in stadium history will have come since 2007. The current record crowd came earlier this year against Memphis, when 28,105 poured through the turnstiles.

TURNOVERS ARE STILL THE KEY: The Blue Raiders are +6 on the season in turnover margin, a mark that ranks tied for 10th nationally. The stat is always one of the most important determining factors in winning and losing. The nine teams that rank better than MT in the category have a combined record of 38-10. Part of the reason MT has been so good in this area is linebacker Danny Carmichael, who leads the nation with four forced fumbles. For the year, MT has forced 12 fumbles and recovered eight of those.

REVISITING STARKVILLE: Most fans will remember that MT held a second half lead against Mississippi State last year on the road before ultimately falling 31-22. The ultimate difference in the game came in the red zone, where the Raiders were forced to kick three field goals in five trips while the Bulldogs scored three touchdowns in four trips. This year, MT's red zone performance has been improved over last year, but the Raiders have had to settle for five field goals in 17 trips to the red zone this year. The Raiders rank 85th in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage, but the Bulldogs are seven spots below that. The team that best capitalizes on its red zone opportunities very likely will walk away with the win.


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