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October 24, 2013

Opponent Q & A: Middle Tennessee

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With Marshall's game against Middle Tennessee just hours away, HerdNation spoke with GoMiddle.com Publisher Casey Bowman about tonight's match-up.

1. The game has been designated a "Black Out". How long has MT held "Black Out" games and what can The Herd expect Thursday night in terms of atmosphere?

The Black Out games started a few years ago and kind of instantly took off. In MT's first Black Out game, they defeated FAU via a last second hail mary pass. Ever since, there has been this sort of mystique around the game, and traditionally MT has played well in those contests. It's a plus for recruiting and the players, as well as the fans, really look forward to seeing what changes have been made year over year.

In terms of the expected atmosphere, I would say it would be a lot better if MT weren't reeling from three straight losses right now. The Blue Raiders have a decent core of diehards in the fanbase, but the majority are off and on, and given MT's recent struggles, I believe most are off the bandwagon right now. I think it will actually be a pretty light crowd. What might help, however, is that the game with Marshall has been pumped up since it was announced, and Thursday games are traditionally attended better, so we'll see. My expectation is an announced crowd between 15,000-to-20,000. Had MT come into this game with some momentum, I would say the crowd would be a near sellout.

2. Doc seems to think Kilgore gets the start. Which QB do you think starts and gives the Blue Raiders the best chance to win?

I think you have to go with Logan Kilgore if you're Rick Stockstill. He's a fifth-year senior and knows the offense better than anyone else. Backup Austin Grammer can do some things with his legs, but his passing leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest knock on Kilgore isn't really mechanics, it's mostly decision making. He has that Brett Favre mentality where he will throw it anywhere he wants because he is confident he can get it in there, regardless of coverage. That's been a double-edged sword for MT, and this year it has been mostly on the negative side.

That said, the season is far from over for MT, and I think the Blue Raiders are better served to go with Kilgore unless the wheels really fall off and all hopes of a winning season or bowl appearance are lost. At that point, you have nothing to lose so you might as well see what you have with the RS freshmen down the stretch. I think, if you're MT, you still utilize Grammer from time to time to keep the defense honest, but the majority of the snaps should go to Kilgore.

3. What does the Herd need to accomplish to get out of Mufreesboro with a win tonight?

If Marshall comes out strong and builds an early lead, they could close the door on this game by halftime. MT does not play catchup well, and if they are forced to abandon the run in favor of the passing game, this could get really ugly. MT's struggles on offense have been so abundant leading up to the bye week that I really do not think they are in a position to try and win a shootout, especially against a talented offense like Marshall's.

Aside from that, if the Herd can force some turnovers, that will bode well as the game progresses. In fact, anything Marshall can do to create doubt in MT's offensive unit will be to their benefit. I'm sure MT will come out confident on offense, but if the Herd force some early turnovers, that could really put a damper on what MT tries to do as the game wears on.

4. Herd fans think the game will be close, some MT fans seem to think it won't be. How do you see the game playing out?

I do think the game will be close, and I actually wouldn't be surprised to see MT win the game. A lot of Blue Raider fans have soured on the team right now, so expectations are really low for this game. For me, however, I see it coming down to the wire, much like MT's game against ECU. The Blue Raiders are coming off of the bye week which, one would think, helped the offense work out some kinks and got some players healthy. I realize Marshall is also coming off of the bye, but I think it was much better timing for the Blue Raiders.

MT has played well at home this season, and typically play up to their competition, so I think Marshall may actually bring out the best in MT Thursday night. In the end, I see a score somewhere around 28-24 going either way, but I lean towards Marshall for the obvious reasons.

5. What are your impressions of C-USA so far and are Blue Raider fans happy with the move to this point?

I don't think anyone is second-guessing the move to C-USA. It simply had to be done. From a financial standpoint, from a perception standpoint, and many other reasons, it was the right move to make for the Blue Raiders. I think the initial buzz has worn off, especially with the football team struggling right now, but with spring sports set to kick off soon, that buzz should return as MT will be fielding some decent teams. Fans jumped on board as soon as word came out. There are those who point to the Sun Belt as perhaps having better football teams right now, but ultimately C-USA stands to field better teams and possess better talent, so it is what it is right now.

My personal impression is that C-USA is a much better league than the SBC in many ways, but the leadership is by far and away an improvement from what I've seen over the years in the SBC. I don't think there will ever be a C-USA team that goes 8-4 on the gridiron and gets left at home during the bowl season.

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