Middle Tennessee vs. Troy Preview
Tuesday night brings about a matchup in the Sun Belt and if the first two weekends are any indication of what's to come then this will be a wild season in the league. Middle Tennessee State (3-1, 1-0) hits the road to take on Troy (2-2, 1-0), the preseason favorite to win the conference. But the idea that the Trojans and Florida Atlantic would run away with this thing has fallen by the wayside; there are more options from which to choose and the Blue Raiders have shown themselves to be one.
QB Dwight Dasher leads a team that ranks 19th in passing offense and 37th in total offense, and he ranks sixth nationally (first in the Sun Belt) in in total offense. Also leading the team in rushing yards (D.D. Kyles has replaced the injured Phillip Tanner at tailback), Dasher is a dynamic threat in head coach Rick Stockstill's spread offense.
"Well, I think he's (Dasher) playing with a lot of confidence," said Coach Stockstill in Monday's Sun Belt Coaches Teleconference. "He prepares himself well for each game and he's done a great job from the leadership standpoint as well." Dasher has made the transition that quite a few young quarterbacks struggle with as dual threats: going from being an athlete who plays the position to a quarterback who happens to be athletic. Job one for the Trojan defense is to neutralize Dasher.
As for the defending Sun Belt champions they've won the last three in the series yet have struggled some on defense. Troy ranks sixth in the conference in total defense but they've been better in winning their last two games. But they can throw the football, leading the Sun Belt in passing offense (18th nationally) behind QB Levi Brown (23rd nationally in total offense). Running the ball has been a chore for Larry Blakeney's team, ranking 106th in rushing offense (96.5 ypg).
The Trojans will not lean heavily upon this aspect of the offense, with a few different threats to choose from. WR Jerrel Jernigan and RB DuJuan Harris are two of the better-known players from a national point of view but receivers TeBiarus Gill, Chip Reeves and Zack Marcum are the top three receivers on the team in regards to yardage. A Middle Tennessee defense that ranks third in the conference in pass defense will have its hands full with the Trojans.
If anything can help the Blue Raiders end their losing streak at the hands of Troy it would be turnovers. They lead the conference in turnover margin (1.50) and rank seventh nationally in the category while the Trojans (-.50) rank fourth in the Sun Belt (82nd nationally).
"They're leading our conference in all of the turnover categories: forced fumbles, margin, interceptions and fumble recoveries and they're nationally ranked in those areas so we certainly have to take care of the football," said Troy head coach Larry Blakeney. Turnovers can be the great equalizer for road teams and when a team's as good at forcing them as the Blue Raiders are it could make all the difference. In an entertaining affair look for the Blue Raiders to win The Battle for the Palladium, ending their three-game losing streak to the Trojans.