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Marshall opponents: Game 7, Middle Tennessee

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 14th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.

  • Date with Marshall: Thursday, Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
  • Site: Floyd Stadium (30,788, Shaw PowerBlade), Murfreesboro, Tenn.
  • Series: Marshall leads 2-0
  • Last meeting: Marshall 49, Middle Tennessee 14, Division I-AA playoffs, Nov. 26, 1994
  • Coach: Rick Stockstill (eighth season, 43-44)
  • Checking them out

    In this latest Conference USA makeover, Middle Tennessee was one of the two or three schools most excited to join (Louisiana Tech, possibly North Texas the others). With a 79-year-old stadium, the Blue Raiders are established as anybody.

    The program enters its 15th season as a Division I-AA/FBS school, arriving with C-USA's new dean of coaches in Rick Stockstill. The Raiders have shown they're the No. 3 team in the state of Tennessee, spanking Memphis three times out of four in the Stockstill era.

    From an experience standpoint, this squad is loaded. There's a veteran quarterback behind four returning starters on the offensive line, throwing to two returning wide receivers and a tight end. Throw in eight returning starters on defense and the Blue Raiders may be the best of the C-USA newbies.

    Logan Kilgore has thrown for 5,348 yards and 37 TDs, and has weapons all around. Jordan Parker (851 yards, three TDs) set the school's freshman rushing record, and he is pushed by the speedy Reggie Whatley. Anthony Amos and his 992 receiving yards are gone, so Christian Collis and Houston Ellis will need to pick up the slack at the "X" position. But the reliable, strong Kyle Griswould is difficult to cover from the slot.

    Former MU line coach Geep Wade inherits an accomplished offensive front that has allowed just 15 sacks over the last two years and helped the backs run for 2,120 yards last season.

    The defense was good enough to hold Florida Atlantic and Memphis under 100 yards rushing, but wasn't good overall. Within Sun Belt play, the MTSU rush defense ranked eighth and the pass defense was ninth, but the Raiders led the league with 28 turnovers forced in those eight games.

    The real failure came on Dec. 1 in the winner-take-all battle at Arkansas State: 274 yards rushing yielded, 512 total, zero takeaways in a 45-0 loss to the Red Wolves. That's a rough performance to live with for nine months.

    Returnees on that side include eight of the top nine tacklers of a year ago. Leading the way are linebackers Craig Allen (82 tackles, one sack) and Roderic Blunt (75 tackles, 21/2 for loss) and safety Kevin Byard, who led with four interceptions. The team's sack total (14) could stand a boost.

    All-conference candidates

  • Offense: OL Josh Walker, T Darius Johnson, QB Logan Kilgore, RB Jordan Parker
  • Defense: LB Roderic Blunt, S Kevin Byard, CB Kevin Gilstrap
  • Special teams: KR Reggie Whatley
  • Notes

    The 2012 Blue Raiders improved their win total by six over the 2-10 season of 2011, the biggest improvement among major colleges. ... Rick Mallory, who coaches tackles and tight ends, has opposed Marshall while at Memphis (2000-09) and Alabama-Birmingham (2011). He had a 10-year career with the NFL's Redskins and Buccaneers.

    2013 schedule

    Aug. 29 (Thu.) Western Carolina DNP

    Sept. 7  at North Carolina* DNP

    Sept. 14 Memphis W 48-30

    Sept. 21 at Florida Atlantic* W 31-17

    Sept. 29 Brigham Young* DNP

    Oct. 5 East Carolina* DNP

    Oct. 12 North Texas* W 38-21 DNP

    Oct. 24 (Thu.) Marshall* DNP

    Nov. 2 at UAB* DNP

    Nov. 9 Fla. International* W 34-30

    Nov. 23 at Southern Miss* DNP

    Nov. 30 at Texas-El Paso* L 25-35

    * Conference USA games

  • 2012 record: 8-4 (6-2 Sun Belt, T-2nd, not selected for bowl)
  • Dropped: McNeese State (L, 21-27), Georgia Tech (W, 49-28), Louisiana-Monroe (L, 17-31), Mississippi State (L, 3-45), Western Kentucky (W, 34-29), South Alabama (W, 20-12), Troy (W, 24-21), Arkansas State (L, 0-45)
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