Middle Tennessee and Mississippi State meet for the third time on Saturday and the Blue Raiders hope to pull off their second win of the season over a Power Six conference opponent.
Which Blue Raiders should you keep a close eye on when the ball kicks off at Davis Wade Stadium?
GoMiddle.com picks out the five MT players most on the spot against the Bulldogs.
1.] The Quarterbacks
Joe Craddock and Dwight Dasher have shared playing time in the last two games and are expected to do so again this week. Both have had their ups and downs and neither has established himself as the offense's clear leader in the last two games. The Raiders have lacked rhythm on offense and it's showed on the scoreboard. The task will not get any easier against a very stout Bulldogs defense. Craddock and Dasher must keep the offense balanced and keep the chains moving to help the Raiders control the clock, similar to the Maryland game in early September.
Hickmon is enjoying what has so far been a career season in 2008. The senior is making a strong case for All-Conference accolades if he keeps up his high level of play. Hickmon has been a force on defense, racking up 8.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions. Hickmon must stay on top of his game this week to give the Raiders a chance at an upset. The Bullodgs don't have much punch on offense have had problems protecting the ball, which means Hickmon and the defense may have opportunities for big plays.
The speedy junior is making his return Saturday after missing last week's Louisville game due to a death in his family. Gee will be counted on this week to help jump start a sputtering offense. The Raiders have struggled offensively in recent weeks and Gee has not had a big game rushing or receiving since recording 106 receiving yards at Kentucky. This is as good a game as any for Gee to break out with another big performance and the Blue Raiders will likely need one to have a shot at victory.
The Blue Raiders got bad news this week when Rick Stockstill announced star cornerback Alex Suber would miss the rest of the season with a broken jaw. That opens the door for Issac though, a talented sophomore that started the season opener but only once since then as Ted Riley emerged. Mississippi State doesn't like to throw the ball much, but if the Bulldogs sense there is a weak link in the secondary they will take some shots down the field even though their offense is not typically a big play attack.
Jenkins is a key leader and iron man on the defensive front. He will be making his 33rd straight start Saturday night and must be a run stopper. The Bulldogs have major problems on offense when they can't run the ball effectively. If Jenkins can be a major factor against the run and help force Mississippi State quarterbacks to win the game through the air, the Raiders should have a solid shot at winning the game.