FIU faces Middle Tennessee, which might be the second best team in the Sun Belt after Troy. The Blue Raiders are pretty stacked in all three facets of the game, but they go as their top-notch quarterback Dwight Dasher goes.
Earlier this week, I wrote that Dasher is like a mini-Vince Young (Texas Longhorn days, not Tenn. Titans). FIU has to account for both Dasher's feet and arm.
However, don't take my word for it. Read up on what MT's beat writer Adam Sparks (right) has to say about the team he covers and what he expects in Saturday's game in our 5 questions with the Panthers opponent this week:
1) I've seen Dwight Dasher (below, left) play FIU the last 2 years and he has been a handful for the FIU D. Is stopping Dasher, the best chance for FIU to win Saturday or who else does the Panthers defense have to worry about?
AS: Dasher obviously needs to have a sub-par day for FIU to win. Aside from being MTSU’s leading rusher and passer, he also leads the nation in offensive touches (or at least he did a couple weeks ago, when I last checked). RB D.D. Kyles is coming off a career game running the ball, but he benefits most when defenses give too much attention to Dasher’s running ability. Dasher’s favorite target in the passing game is a toss-up. It seems to change every game.
2) What is the best way for the FIU offense to go about attacking the MT defense? Is there a weak link on the Raiders D?
AS: Not sure if there is a distinct weak link, but offenses that can run the ball with power sometimes wear down MTSU’s front line (see
3) Seems like Middle Tennessee has some pretty good special teams. Has it usually been that way or is it just this season that the special teams have stood out?
AS: The return game has been pretty good the last few years. It’s O.K. this year. Kicker Alan Gendreau is having an outstanding year (12-13 this season and 20 of last 22, dating back to last season). MTSU has blocked five kicks (three last week vs. FAU). As coach Rick Stockstill says, MTSU is a “punt block team.” Their defensive philosophy of attacking bleeds over into the kick/punt block teams. And Stockstill doesn’t care about punt return yards. He only wants the punt caught safely.
4) FIU is a two-touchdown underdog. How do the Panthers go about pulling the upset?
AS: Very simple. Win the turnover margin. MTSU has the best turnover margin in the Sun Belt, and all its losses hinge on losing the turnover margin. Last year FIU beat MTSU because of a couple of costly interceptions. Do it again and FIU can win. Secondly, QB Paul McCall needs to make good decisions with the football, and not just interceptions. Know when to throw it away when MTSU’s pass rush comes quickly. And know when to exploit an MTSU blitz for a big gainer to one of those tall WRs.
5) Your game prediction and score?
AS: Like I said, turnover margin could swing this game for FIU, but that would be uncharacteristic for MTSU. The Blue Raiders have depth, while FIU is thin and injury-plagued. I think Hilton or somebody else will hit MTSU for a couple of big plays, but MTSU will wear down FIU from about the second or third quarter on. Maybe close early, but MTSU pulls away. MTSU 38, FIU 17
Also will have a LIVE BLOG for you from the Dean Dome on Monday night as your Panthers hoopsters tip-off the season against defending national champion North Carolina. We'll get live blogging on that one at 6:45 p.m. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.