Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Will the Real MTSU Please Stand Up

Middle Tennessee State University has played two games so far this season, and have looked like two different teams doing it. In their first game, they lost to lowly Florida Atlantic University 27-14, gaining only 217 yards of total offense, only 18 of which came on the ground. They fell behind 24-0 before scoring a couple late touchdowns to make the game look closer than it was.

In their second game, they scored 42 points on top 10 Louisville, gaining 554 yards of total offense, including 264 on the ground. They were in the game into the 4th quarter and were actually leading it late in the second quarter.

What do we know about MTSU? Well, one of their fans has made his way to Tiger Forums and has told us what to expect. Even he believes they looked like two different teams:
I wish I had the answer about the huge turnaround from game one to game two. We also accomplished it on a short week. To me that's nothing more than amazing. Last year we were co-champions of the Sun Belt based on a very conservative offense and a dominating defense. Our defense was supposed to be our strength again this year, but so far that hasn't happened. We tried the same style of play in our first game. Unfortunately, due to a couple of mishaps Florida Atlantic had 3 possessions before we ever touched the ball. After holding them to 3 and out they had to punt. It was a very bad punt, but it hit one of our players and FAU recovered. They ended up scoring. We then fumbled the ensuing kickoff. I think a combination of being on the field too long in the 1st quarter and the Florida heat/humidity really hurt us in that game.

We appeared to have a different game plan against Louisville. We went to more of a spread offense. We moved one of our biggest playmakers, Desmond Gee (pronounced "G") from running back to wide receiver. DeMarco McNair is our starting tailback. He runs a 4.35 forty. He is complimented by back-up Phillip Tanner. Tanner is a little bit bulkier, but he ran a leg on our track relay team. He has explosive speed as well. Joe Craddock, our QB, is a first year starter. He has a good arm and he has mobility.

We are hurting on the O-line. One reason why we went to the spread is because of a major lack of depth on the O-line. We have had numerous injuries at that position and we only had 7 scholarship O-linemen available for the Louisville game. I look for us to continue the spread offense because there is no way we can line up with the Tigers D-line.

Our defensive line is supposed to be our strength. We return basically all our 2-deep players from last year. We have not looked very good this year so far, but there is some real talent on the D-line. Our secondary is not bad. # 24 Bradley Robinson has really been hitting hard this year. If you saw the Louisville game you might remember he was the one who stuck Douglas on the goal line. Roy Polite has been laying the hits on as well. Our secondary might be the hardest hitting one you have faced this year.

Our linebackers are young, but talented.

This is going to be an extremely tough test for the Blue Raiders. If we play like we did the first game then it will be over in the 1st quarter. If we play like we did against Louisville, I look for some Tiger fans to be somewhat nervous at halftime, then your depth will take over.

I was very proud of the way we played at Louisville (even though I'm never happy with a loss). I think we showed flashes of the talent we have. We are nowhere close to being on the same level as a LSU, but this is college football and as fans we can always pull for our team, no matter the odds.
So there you have it. They play a spread out offense (or maybe they do). Their offensive line is not good. They are a pretty talented team for a mid-major. They are not expected to stay in the game the whole time.

There are a couple rumors really starting to fly around. I'm sure you've heard the whole Les-Miles-is-going-to-Michigan rumor. There's really nothing that can be done about that rumor. It's out there, and it's not going anywhere until either he leaves, Michigan hires someone else, or they decide to keep Lloyd Carr. Therefore, we can expect these rumors to persist for the entire season. I'll have some more thoughts on this in another post.

The other rumor going around is that Matt Flynn is more seriously injured than first thought. I will only say that someone on Tigerdroppings (yes, I still read it at times) posted something troubling yesterday, and it was quickly deleted by the administrators over there. I think we still beat MTSU pretty handily without Matt Flynn if it comes to that, but I'd rather not go against South Carolina at less than our best.

For what it's worth, Les Miles is denying that Flynn is out for the game:
"I think he'll be able to go, no question" Miles said of Flynn's status for Saturday's 7 p.m. home game against Middle Tennessee. "We figure he'll be available to us."

Flynn wore a large black boot around his ankle and up to his knee after practice.

"He puts that on after practice," LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said. "He ran today. He threw."
What do I want out of this game:
  1. A convincing win with no significant injuries and without showing future opponents anything useful on film,
  2. The opportunity to get our best players out of the game early to help avoid injuries, and
  3. Playing time for young players and other backups
Tomorrow, we preview the rest of the SEC.

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