Two straight bowl games have put the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders closer to the national spotlight than ever before, and they'll look to continue that rise by pulling off an upset against Purdue on Saturday.
This game should end up having a similar look to last year's contest against Minnesota at the start of the season, when the Golden Gophers established the run against a smaller Blue Raiders squad.
If the Blue Raiders want to shock the college football world, then they'll have to stop the run early and often to force Purdue to rely more on the pass.
They failed to do that against Minnesota last season, and still only lost by a touchdown.
The Blue Raiders defensive line is relatively young and inexperienced, so penetrating the much bigger Purdue offensive line will be a huge challenge.
The offensive linemen of Purdue all way upwards of 300 pounds, while the Blue Raiders defensive line does not have one guy who weighs that much.
For that reason, the linebackers will play a bigger role in contributing in stopping the run. Stephen Roberts, a redshirt sophomore linebacker, is expected to have a huge first season with the Blue Raiders and will need to be effective against the run.
It's vital that the Blue Raiders keep the score low in this game because quarterback Logan Kilgore is also inexperienced and will most likely not put up too many points.
The way the Blue Raiders will win this game is by playing scrappy, roughneck football. That starts by winning in the trenches.
To do that, they'll have to figure out a way to slow down Ralph Bolden, a guy who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in 2009.
Bolden missed 2010 with a knee injury.
Perhaps the best thing working in the favor of the Blue Raiders is they will be facing a backup quarterback for Purdue in Caleb TerBush.
If the Blue Raiders silence the run, then the Boilermakers will have to figure out a way to beat the Blue Raiders behind the arm of an inexperienced quarterback.
The Blue Raiders were not shy about scheduling tough opponents in their non-conference schedule, so an opening win against Purdue would put them in good shape for qualifying for their third-straight bowl game.
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