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October 15, 2009
MT vs. MSU: Who and what to watch
A potential sellout crowd will be on hand at Floyd Stadium Saturday as Middle Tennessee battles Mississippi State in a key non-conference matchup.
The Blue Raiders and Bulldogs both need a win to generate some midseason momentum, and MT is trying to knock off its second Power Six conference opponent of the year.
GoMiddle.com breaks down who and what to watch when MT and MSU tee it up.
THE BIG STATS
MSU'S FIRST DOWN RUSHING YARDAGE- Mississippi State boasts one of the nation's best rushing attacks and the Bulldogs will almost certainly try to establish it early and often against the Raiders. It is vital for MT that the defense slows down Anthony Dixon and the rest of the Bulldog ground threats on first down. If MSU is successful on first down, the Bulldogs playbook can become much more dangerous. MT needs to keep the Bulldogs in long yardage situations. MSU is just 6 for 40 on the season converting 3rd-and-7 or longer.
RED ZONE TOUCHDOWNS- It was MT's ineffectiveness in the red zone last year that cost the Raiders a good chance at winning at Mississippi State. Having to settle for three short field goals was very costly. MSU has scored 12 touchdowns in 24 red zone trips this year. MT has 9 touchdowns in 17 red zone trips. Finishing drives with six points is a must for both squads on Saturday.
TURNOVERS HOLD TO FORM- MSU has not been good at protecting the football and it has cost the Bulldogs dearly. Dan Mullen's team is -8 in turnover margin and opponents have turned the giveaways into 58 points. Taking care of the ball has been a strength for the MT offense and the Raider defense has been adept at hawking the ball as well. If the turnover trends continue for both teams, the Raiders will have an excellent chance.
THE MT DEFENSE GETS TO REST- Tackling the 235 pound Dixon for much of the game will likely lead to a worn down MT defensive front late in the game unless the Raider offense can control the ball in the early stages and win the time of possession battle. Doing that will increase the likelihood of MT being able to hold a lead late into the game. MSU has lost 11 straight games when it trailed after three quarters, but MT probably can't get to that position if the offense fails to keep the chains moving and forces the defense to log a ton of plays early.
YOU'LL KNOW IT'S GOING POORLY IF...
MSU SCORES A NON-OFFENSIVE TOUCHDOWN- The Bulldogs have had a knack for scoring in all phases of the game. After not scoring a single non-offensive touchdown all of last season, MSU has tallied four already this season. The Bulldogs have scored on a blocked punt, a kickoff return, and two interception returns. If they achieve the feat again this week, the Raiders will have a steep hill to climb.
MSU PROTECTS THE BALL- While it was touched on above, it's important to emphasize again how much the game's tone will be set by MT's ability (or inability) to force Bulldog miscues. If MSU's offense doesn't turn the ball over, it becomes very difficult to stop. The Bulldogs have punted just twice in their last 25 offensive possessions. The ball has been slippery in their hands this year. MSU has lost 10 fumbles on the year, which must make MT linebacker Danny Carmichael lick his chops. Carmichael leads the nation with four forced fumbles.
Mississippi State NEWS