MTSU quarterback Joe Craddock was honored with an ESPN helmet sticker for his performance in the Blue Raiders' 24-14 win over Maryland. The 5-foot-11, 197-pound senior is more experienced and proven than either of UK's two-platoon quarterbacks of Mike Hartline and Randall Cobb.
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Advantage: Middle Tennessee
Kentucky's running game showed signs of life last week, as Derrick Locke broke loose on a 68-yard TD run while Moncell Allen was impressive late. The Blue Raiders will rotate tailbacks Phillip Tanner and Desmond Gee and have struggled mightily to run the ball, averaging just 2.2 yards per carry.
Kentucky's O-line hasn't performed up to expectations yet this year, and Coach Rich Brooks challenged their toughness this week. Redshirt freshman Billy Joe Murphy did a nice job filling in for the injured Garry Williamsat left tackle. MTSUsophomore right tackleMark Fisher will be matched up with Kentucky's pass-rush specialist Jeremy Jarmon. The Blue Raiders did not allow a sack in last week's win over Maryland, but four of the starters are either freshmen or sophomores.
The Wildcats receiving corps is still a work in progress and has only one touchdown catch in two games, a 19-yarder from Dicky Lyons Jr. Look for freshmen Gene McCaskill, Aaron Boyd and Eric Adeyemi to get more chances to provide a spark this week. The Blue Raiders will spread the ball around to several different receivers. MTSU's big-play guy is true freshman Malcolm Beyah, who's averaging 23 yards per catch and has TD catches of 53 and 46 yards.
People are starting to take notice of the UK defensive line on a national scale, and the Cats should have plenty of pass-rush opportunities Saturday night. The Blue Raiders have become known for getting to the quarterback under Coach Rick Stockstill, as their 65 sacks over the past two years ranks them 25th nationally. MTSU picked up three sacks against Maryland. Senior end Wes Hofacker will try to get pressure on Hartline and Cobb off the edge.
The UK linebackers have been as good as advertised through two games, but MTSU's spread offense will be their toughest test to date. MTSU middle linebacker Danny Carmichael had a key interception and 25-yard return that helped put the Blue Raiders up 17-7 on Maryland in the third quarter.
UK's cornerback tandem of Trevard Lindley and David Jones has been like fly paper through two games. The Wildcats have picked off four passes without allowing a touchdown. The Blue Raiders secondary isn't too shabby, either. They picked off three passes against Maryland and are led by All-Sun Belt cornerback Alex Suber, who came up with the game-clinching interception in the end zone against Maryland.
Tim Masthay continues to be one of the early stories of the UK season, as his booming kickoffs have saved dozens of yards and helped the Cats control field position. The Wildcats are hoping to get their return game started tonight. Middle Tennessee punter David DeFatta is adept at pinning opponents inside the 20 and also threw a 28-yard completion on a fake-punt pass against Maryland.