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An Early Look Ahead to Middle Tennessee State

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Much like I did against JMU, I started my preliminary MTSU research today. Luckily, though, there was an easier route for me to take this time: the Blue Raiders had a game against Memphis up on ESPN360 - yep, I watched game film.

The most obvious thing about Middle Tennessee State's offense is their uncanny similarity to James Madison's system. Both run spreads and prefer to keep the ball on the ground - the MTSU version is just a little bit better.

Their starting QB is Dwight Dasher, who started his freshman year but took a back seat last year. He's extremely athletic and is perfect for the spread. He's a great runner and an effective passer when he has time. He has a strong arm, but looked prone to make mistakes or throw inaccurately when forced to throw under pressure. Of course, he's also athletic enough to avoid pressure and scramble, and he's difficult to bring down in the open field. I'd definitely rate him above Dudzik, and I was rather impressed with him.

Normally, MTSU starts Phillip Tanner at RB, and normally he's a hard-running back whose tough to bring down. Luckily for Maryland, he'll be out of commission on Saturday, and will be replaced by sophomore D.D. Kyles. Kyles didn't look bad, but he was nowhere near as impressive as Tanner, and it seemed like MTSU altered their offense after Tanner went the 3rd quarter.

The Blue Raiders' offense can definitely be imposing, especially because they run no-huddle the entire game. The JMU game might be a warmup of sorts, but Maryland will need to get pressure with their line and need the secondary to make sure tackles - two things that haven't happened yet this year.

it's also worth mentioning how much better MTSU's offense got with some momentum. Early on, they looked pretty vulnerable, but after two big plays, they were nigh unstoppable. Keeping them from stringing together big plays should be a main focus.

Defensively, they run a normal base 4-3 package, although they switch to 3 down linemen on 3rd down. They were far less impressive defensively than offensively. Memphis' stats might not've looked all that impressive, but they had a lot of opportunities to make plays. There were a lot of open receivers and lot of holes for their running backs - they just couldn't convert. I don't think Da'Rel Scott will get run down by a DE like Memphis' Lance Smith was, and I'm also pretty sure Chris Turner can hit most wide open receivers, unlike Arkelon Hall.

Other than that, they were rather unremarkable defensively. They brought a few interesting blitzes occasionally, but they didn't even seem to be to a Don Brown level (or Don Brown hype level). They did have a few intriguing players on defense, mainly DE Chris McCoy, who looked like a mini-Brian Orakpo and made a few nice stops.

It's tough to judge the lines - which are really the most important things - because I don't know how good Memphis is, but I'll say this - neither line was dominant. They didn't control Memphis' offense, and they didn't lock the Tigers out of the backfield. Of course, they weren't bad either; Dasher had some nice holes to run through, and they did get to Hall a few times.

I wouldn't say I'm confident, but that's only because this is the team that needed overtime to beat JMU. Middle Tennessee State is a quality opponent, better than JMU, but they're still a team Maryland should be able to handle. If they can keep Dasher in check, there shouldn't be any problems. Keeping Dasher in check, though, is no small task.