This week’s game: Middle Tennessee State (4-2) at No. 15 MSU (6-0), Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Brock Huard and Jessica Mendoza)
Middle Tennessee’s best shot at upsetting MSU may have gone down last week when star tailback Benny Cunningham injured his knee. Coach Rick Stockstill said earlier in the week, “We’re not going to be able to replace him.”
But the Blue Raiders are going to have to try, as you can read in today’s Journal. MSU is giving the MTSU offense respect despite the absence of Cunningham. As noted in my story, MSU had trouble last week stopping Tennessee’s bevy of runners, so it’s no guarantee Middle Tennessee won’t generate some yards on the ground.
MTSU will use several guys at running back, but a lot of its success could depend on just how good this Drayton Calhoun kid is. He’s an LSU transfer who was an All-American tailback in high school. He’s had a hard time getting carries this year because of Cunningham’s productivity, but he’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has two touchdowns. And we know Calhoun has speed, because he’s a sprinter on MTSU’s track and field team. Last season he finished second in the 55-meter dash at the Sun Belt indoor championships.
Middle Tennessee will have to do more than run the ball to win; it has a solid quarterback in Logan Kilgore. Stockstill talked about having mental toughness in a hostile environment, and one thing his team has going for it is a 3-0 road record. So the Blue Raiders would seem to know what it takes to get it done on the road.
“To me you’ve got to be mentally tough, especially mentally tough when you go on the road to play,” Stockstill said. “We’ve played at Memphis, we’ve played at Georgia Tech, and we’ve played at FIU, and we won those games. But the environment we’re going to go into Saturday night compares nothing to those three. They’ll have a packed house, it’ll be loud, the cowbells, all that stuff.”
Here’s the rest of this weekend’s SEC schedule (Arkansas, Ole Miss and Missouri are off):
• LSU at Texas A&M, 11 a.m., ESPN
• Auburn at Vanderbilt, 11:21 a.m., SEC Network
• South Carolina at Florida, 2:30 p.m., CBS
• Alabama at Tennessee, 6 p.m., ESPN
• Georgia at Kentucky, 6 p.m., Fox Sports Net