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Tuesday Football

Tuesday Football

Tuesday's College Football TV Capsule
November 19, 2007

Opening Line: Troy by 11 1/2.

Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads 11-3

Last Meeting: 2006, Troy 21-20

Last Meeting: 2006, Troy 21-20

The winner gets the ``Palladium Trophy.'' ... Middle Tennessee has a 6-1 conference record on the road, under Coach Rick Stockstill. ... Middle Tennessee is 4-1 at Troy, including a victory in its last meeting at Movie Gallery Stadium in 2005. ... Since 2003, Troy is 19-3 at Movie Gallery Stadium. ... Troy is first in the Sunbelt in total offense (443.7 yards per game), passing defense (106) and second in total defense (389.8 yards per game).

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What bettors need to know: Middle Tennessee State at Troy

In the shadows

The Troy Trojans feel overlooked. They are the only Football Bowl Subdivision team in Alabama that can still win their conference title, yet that achievement will be completely overshadowed by next weekend’s Alabama-Auburn clash.

"To the public, we kind of play in their shadows," Troy linebacker Marcus Richardson told The Associated Press this week. "In my opinion, I don't think we do. I think that's the reason why we don't get to play them.

“We take pride in having a good record and take pride in being one of best schools in Alabama.”

The Trojans close out their season with games against Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic. A single win would guarantee them at least a share of the Sun Belt title. But Troy wants to win both games and secure the outright title for the second straight year.

"We don't have to win both games unless you just want to do it right and be outright champions," head coach Larry Blakeney said. "I know everybody wants to do that."

Troy’s players certainly don’t lack any motivation. Richardson says that the Trojans “kind of have a natural chip” on their collective shoulders. Many of them were passed up by some of the bigger schools in the state.

"Everyone has a different situation or predicament that puts them here," he said. "A lot of guys went to other schools and had to transfer here. We naturally as a team play with a chip. We always try to play like we're mad at the world. That's just the level of play that the team has."

Long shot

A shock 34-24 loss at home to Louisiana-Lafayette in the Raiders’ last game makes it unlikely they will get a bowl bid. But they are still not out of the running for a share of the conference title.

"We have a ton to play for at Troy," MT coach Rick Stockstill told Sidelines, the school’s student paper. "At this point, there is still hope that we can be in the mix to share the championship.

“Is it a long shot? Yeah, probably, but there is still hope."

Several things would have to happen for the Raiders to grab a share of the Sun Belt title. First, they would have to beat Troy. Then the Trojans would have to lose their final game of the season to Florida Atlantic. Next, MT would need Florida Atlantic to lose on the road against Florida International.

If that scenario played out, the title would be shared between Troy, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee. Given Troy’s domination of conference opponents this season, a win for the Raiders on Tuesday is far from a given.

"Troy is very good, obviously," Stockstill added. "They have one of the better offenses and defenses in the conference. Defensively, their team speed is very noticeable. Their back seven will be the best we have faced all year within this conference."

The Trojans have beaten all five conference opponents they have met this season, covering the spread each time.

Quarterback controversy

Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stocksill took some criticism after he replaced junior quarterback Joe Craddock in the second quarter of the Nov. 10 loss to ULL.

The game was tied at 14 apiece when Stocksill removed Craddock, who had passed for 89 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. Dwight Dasher took over and was 5-of-11 passing for 29 yards and one interception.

Stocksill stood by his decision this week.

“If I had that same situation 100 times, in that same course of the game with everything going on, I’d handle it the same way every time,” he told the Daily News Journal.

“Obviously Dasher was not 100 percent, and that probably limited him a little bit,” Stockstill said, referring to a knee injury the freshman is battling. “But I never ever considered putting Craddock back in the game.”

Stocksill added that he has made no firm decision on who will start the game against Troy, but will base his decision on performances in practice as well as Dasher’s health.

Craddock has thrown for 1,143 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions this season, while Dasher has 1,148 passing yards, eight TDs and three interceptions.

Hobbled Haugabook

Playing through the pain has backfired for Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook. The reigning Sun Belt player of the year believes that overcompensation for one injury probably led to another in the recent win over Western Kentucky.

Haugabook went into that contest nursing a strained hamstring and came out of it with a strained oblique.

“He probably compensated for the hamstring with his throwing motion which caused him to miss a few and lose some confidence,” head coach Larry Blakeney told the Dothan Eagle. “We need to get his fundamentals back and get his confidence back.”

While Haugabook is ready to play against Middle Tennessee this week, he is not going to be 100 percent fit. He may have to play hurt for the remainder of the season.

“It doesn’t take an expert to say that the last three weeks, he hadn’t been the same Omar,” offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said. “He’s lost a good part of what makes him so good which is take it and go.

“Teams are sitting back and dropping eight and deciding they’re not going to let him kill them with his legs. We have to figure out a way to coach better and find more productive ways.”

Haugabook has thrown for 2,516 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He managed 235 passing yards and two touchdowns in last year’s 21-20 win over Middle Tennessee.

Head to head

Troy has won and covered in two of its last three meetings with Middle Tennessee. The last two games between these teams have been under the total.

The Raiders are 8-3 ATS versus teams with a winning record, while the Trojans are 7-2 ATS for the season.

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Middle Tennessee (5-6, 6-4 ATS) at Troy (7-3, 7-2 ATS)

Troy looks to move a step closer to its second consecutive Sun Belt Conference championship when it hosts league rival Middle Tennessee in a nationally televised contest.

Since opening the season with consecutive blowout losses at Arkansas and Florida, Troy has won seven of its last eight, going 6-1 ATS in lined games. The Trojans, who topped Western Kentucky 21-17 in a non-lined contest in its most recent game on Nov. 10, are 5-0 (4-1 ATS) in the Sun Belt Conference, one game ahead of Florida Atlantic, which visits Troy next weekend.

Like the Trojans, Middle Tennessee’s last game was on Nov. 10, when the Blue Raiders had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 34-24 home loss to Louisiana-Lafayette as a 13½-point favorite. Middle Tennessee produced just 256 total yards while allowing 528, the third straight game in which it got outgained.

The Trojans edged Middle Tennessee 21-20 as a 7½-point road underdog a year ago, a victory that gave Troy the Sun Belt title. Prior to last year, the favorite had gone 4-0 SU and ATS in this rivalry.

The Blue Raiders, who have followed up a 5-0 ATS run with consecutive non-covers, are 4-2 in Sun Belt games (3-3 ATS). On the bright side, after losing its first three road games, Middle Tennessee has won three in a row on the highway (1-2 ATS).

Troy, which has cashed in three straight lined contests. has played just three home games, winning all three by double digits and covering the number each time.

Troy is on ATS streaks of 10-1 in games played on grass, 6-1 in conference games and 6-1 against losing teams.

Middle Tennessee is on ATS runs of 8-3 against winning teams, 8-3-1 in Sun Belt contests and 4-0 following a bye.

The under is 4-2 in Middle Tennessee’s last six, 4-1 in Troy’s last five lined games and 2-0 in the last two meetings.


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Game Preview for Middle Tennessee vs Troy

FACTS: Site: Movie Gallery Stadium (30,000) -- Troy, Alabama. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: MTU 0-0, Troy 0-0. Away Record: MTU 0-0, Troy 0-0. Neutral Record: MTU 0-0, Troy 0-0. Conference Record: MTU 4-2, Troy 5-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 11-3.

GAME NOTES: The Troy Trojans will try to remain perfect in Sun Belt Conference play when they host the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in The Battle of The Palladium on Tuesday night at Movie Gallery Stadium. The Blue Raiders saw their four-game winning streak come to an end back on November 10th when the team was defeated by UL-Lafayette, 34-24. The loss dropped the Blue Raiders to 4-2 in league action and 5-6 overall. Since joining the SBC, the Blue Raiders have accumulated a 28-19 ledger in league action. As for the Trojans, they have won seven of their last eight games, including a 21-17 victory over Western Kentucky on November 10th. With a victory against MTU and a win over Florida Atlantic next week, the Trojans will capture their second consecutive Sun Belt title. Since the beginning of the 2003 season, the Trojans have been remarkable at home, posting a 19-3 ledger. The Blue Raiders have a solid 11-3 lead over Troy in the all-time series. However, last year Troy chipped away at that lead with an improbable win, scoring two touchdowns late in the contest, collecting a 21-20 victory.

The Blue Raiders are coming off a very disappointing offensive showing against UL-Lafayette, as the team totaled just 256 total yards. MTU rushed for 138 yards on 3.5 ypc, and only threw for 118 yards in the loss. Quarterback Dwight Dasher has been the team's best option, but the signal caller has been hampered by minor injuries and it was evident in the recent loss, as he threw for just 29 yards and one interception. Dasher, who is usually a threat with his legs, tallied just nine yards on nine carries. Dasher's inability led to Joe Craddock seeing time in the contest, and he a bit more success, completing 8-of-11 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns. The ground game was led by Desmond Gee and DeMarco McNair, who combined for 134 yards and one score on 25 carries. Despite his poor performance against ULL, Dasher is still leading the squad with 528 rushing yards, while also throwing for 1,148 yards. Dasher has 12 total touchdowns on the season, and has thrown only three INTs.

Middle Tennessee was dreadful in the loss to ULL, as the defense was abused for 528 total yards. The team surrendered 34 points, while being gashed for a whopping 376 rushing yards. On the season, the Blue Raiders have struggled against the run, allowing the opposition to rack up 194.1 ypg on the ground. Overall, the unit is being pounded for 402.8 total ypg and that has led to 26.7 ppg. Against ULL, the defense only forced one turnover, but did record four sacks. Overall, the team has been solid in both areas, collecting an impressive 25 turnovers, while also recording 25 sacks. Currently pacing the unit is Tavares Jones, who has posted team highs in tackles (55) and sacks (six).

The Trojans currently own one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the entire Sun Belt, as the squad has the ability to defeat an opponent with the run, or the pass. On the year, the rushing game has churned out 175.3 ypg, while the aerial assault has dismantled teams for an impressive 268.4 ypg. All that offensive production has led to a solid 33.1 ppg. This past weekend, the Trojans slipped past Western Kentucky by four points, racking up 363 total yards of offense, including 241 yards rushing. Kenny Cattouse led the attack with 112 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries, while QB Omar Haugabook contributed 62 rushing yards on 10 attempts. Unfortunately, Haugabook did not have a strong game with his arm, throwing for just 125 yards and one touchdown against one interception. Haugabook has completed 61.0 percent of his passes for 2,516 yards, but has just 15 TDs against 14 interceptions.

The biggest issue for Troy's defensive unit has been an inability to shut down the run, as teams are currently averaging 210.8 ypg on the ground. Overall, this unit is surrendering 389.8 total ypg, leading to 25.0 ppg for opposing teams. In the recent victory over Western Kentucky, the Trojans' woes against the run continued, as they were gashed for 256 yards. Troy was dismantled for 416 total yards, but gave up just 17 points. The Trojans also forced three turnovers and recorded two sacks in the win. The team has had plenty of success in both areas, as the squad has forced 28 turnovers, while collecting 28 sacks. Kenny Mainor has led the way upfield, as he paces the defense with nine TFLs and five sacks.

The Blue Raiders need Dasher to be at his best if the team will have any chance of pulling out a victory. Troy is extremely tough at home and should have no trouble pushing its league mark to 6-0.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Troy 34, Middle Tennessee 21

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MIDDLE TENNESSEE at TROY...There’s not quite as much at stake as last year’s meeting for the "Palladium Trophy," when a berth in the New Orleans Bowl was on the line. This time, Troy sits in the Sun belt driver’s seat, and only a wild string of results over the next two weeks could get MTSU into a tie for league honors. But rest assured the Blue Raiders have a score to settle with the Trojans after blowing a 20-7 lead in the final moments of last year’s bitter 21-20 defeat. The Blue Raiders have proven they can “step up” this season, taking ACC Coastal leader Virginia to the wire and winning handily at bowl-bound Memphis. AnD extra couple of days rest last week should help banged-up MTSU, and likely give exciting frosh QB Dwight Dasher time to heal from knee and ankle injuries. Along with Joe Craddock, Blue Raider QBs have tossed 20 TD passes vs. just 7 picks this season. Outscoring Omar Haugabook and the Troy spread won’t be easy, but MTSU has enough to make this one very interesting.

Score forecast: MTSU 26 - Troy 29

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