The Cougars, coming off of a difficult loss to the Utes, will play host to the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee this Friday night. Not surprisingly, most of us aren't extremely familiar with Middle Tennessee, so let's take some time to learn this week's foe.
Who is Middle Tennessee
This is the Blue Raider's first year as members of Conference USA, after spending the previous 12 seasons as members of the Sun Belt Conference. They are led by coach Rick Stockstill, who has been at the helm for the last five years. Coach Stockstill's tenure has included three losing seasons and two winning seasons - one of which led to a bowl game victory in 2009. Middle Tennessee has been to a total of five bowl games throughout the program's history, holding a 2-3 record in those games. Their most successful season in program history came in 2009, when they went 10-3 (7-1 Sun Belt), when they shared the Sun Belt Conference Title with Troy, and went on to beat Southern Miss in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
They come into Provo this friday night with a 3-1 record, after beating Florida Atlantic 42-35 in an overtime thriller. Middle Tennessee's offense has been impressive so far, as they have scored at least 40 points in three of their four games. Here's a closer look at the offense.
The Blue Raiders have led a fairly balanced offensive scheme so far this season. They are led by senior QB Logan Kilgore, who has started for Middle Tennessee for the past three seasons. He has thrown for 729 yards on the season, with a 60% completion percentage. He poses little threat on the ground, as has rushed the ball 14 times for -25 yards on the season.
Kilgore's favorite target is senior receiver Tavarres Jefferson, who has 22 catches and 279 yards on the season, averaging 12.7 yards per catch. Another receiver to keep on eye is senior Kyle Griswould, who is averaging almost 10 yards per reception and 127 yards. It will be important for BYU to lock down on Jefferson and Griswould, forcing Kilgore to look elsewhere in the passing game.
Middle Tennessee has one of Conference USA's best offensive lines, and the O-line has done a good job at creating holes for the running game to be successful.
Their rushing attack is led by sophomore Jordan Parker, a 6'1" 207 lb running back averaging five yards per carry with 435 yards on the season Parker is coming off of a 115 yard game against Florida Atlantic. The Blue Raiders have also found success in handing the ball off to Reggie Wheatley and William Pratcher this year. Middle Tennessee does a good job of maintaining a balanced offensive attack, as they have rushed for 785 yards on the season and passed for 822.
On the defense line, keep an eye on senior defensive end Stephen Roberts and defensive tackle Jimmy Staten. They are the anchors of the defensive line, and have done a good job at getting to opposing quarterbacks. Their linebacker corps is led by 6'2" 230 lb. senior Cedric Allen, who had 70 tackles in 2012 and is on track to surpass last year's number.
The Red Raiders passing defense has struggled this year, ranked 101st in the country. They have a fairly young secondary, but the guy to watch would be junior CB Khari Burke, who has been able to successfully lock down some good receivers this year, and he can be expected to cover Cody Hoffman this week.
What are they expected to accomplish this season?
In their first season as members of Conference USA, most people have expected the Blue Raiders to make some noise in conference play. Their two toughest out of conference opponents are BYU and UNC. They fell to UNC 20-40 in week 3, and they are the underdog on the road against the Cougars this week. But aside from those two games, they match up very well with the other teams on their schedule. Look for the Blue Raiders to finish the season with an 8-4 record.
How do they match up with BYU?
BYU matches up favorably with Middle Tennessee. The Cougars shouldn't have a problem putting pressure on the quarterback or minimizing their running game, therefor making the Blue Raiders one dimensional and forcing Kilgore to beat them through the air. This game would be a good opportunity for Taysom HIll to work on some of his accuracy issues, and gain confidence in his arm moving forward, as Middle Tennessee will probably be one of the weaker secondaries that BYU will face this year.
BYU should be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and barring a major let down, the Cougars should be able to handle the Blue Raiders, winning by multiple touchdowns.
Prediction: BYU wins 42-17