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What is ailing Middle Tennessee could be the remedy for FIU to get a win on Saturday when the Panthers visit the Blue Raiders at 4 p.m. in Murfreesboro, Tenn. You can join me for the broadcast of the game on the FIU Sports Radio Network by CLICKING HERE. The broadcast begins at 3:55 p.m.
The Raiders come into the game allowing 208 rushing yards per game which could make for a productive day for FIU running backs Silas Spearman, Lamarq Caldwell and quarterback E.J. Hilliard if he is flushed out of the pocket. Should the Panthers establish the ground game then Hilliard should get his share of opportunities throwing the ball. One area where FIU coach Ron Turner would like to see improvement from Hilliard is in getting rid of the ball and not taking sacks.
FIU was masterful last week in controlling the clock by moving the offense methodically downfield against East Carolina with a balanced combination of running and passing. Look for tight end Jonnu Smith among others to be involved in the passing game as FIU again tries to be efficient on offense.
As of the writing of this preview, the Raiders offensive backfield is a question mark as to who will play. Leading rusher Jordan Parker is questionable with an injury for Saturday. Reggie Whatley was injured last week, but appears ready for FIU. Sophomore Jeremiah Bryson and freshman Shane Tucker would be the No. 3 and 4 backs for MT.
The Raiders running game is the strength of their offense. Another plus for the Panthers is that MT quarterback Logan Kilgore is not mobile and if FIU can shut down the run game then Isame Faciane, Greg Hickman and the rest of the defensive line can tee off on Kilgore. In two starts against FIU, Kilgore is 27 of 49 with 414 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. The Panthers sacked Kilgore three times last season. Like Adam Sparks of the Daily News Journal said earlier this week on this blog, the Raiders passing offense doesn’t work well without the running game. So if the Panthers can make the Raiders one-dimensional on offense, FIU has a good shot of leaving Tennessee with a W.
It will be cold but sunny on Saturday afternoon as temperature is expected to be 49 degrees at kickoff. The cold conditions might affect the kicking game because at Floyd Stadium the wind tends to swirl with the building’s configuration. Like is the case in many anticipated close games, special teams could be a factor on Saturday.
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