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September 11, 2008Could the Blue Raiders pull off a second straight win over a major conference opponent?
Facing Kentucky on the road raises the bar for Middle Tennessee to try and jump over, but the Raiders are riding a wave of confidence after last week's convincing win.
Here are our picks as the five key players to watch against the Wildcats:
1.] Joe Craddock
Craddock has been a steady hand under center for the Blue Raiders so far this season and he must show the same poise he did last week in order to be successful against a very stingy SEC defense. The senior signal caller played brilliantly in last week's win over Maryland and was even honored with an ESPN helmet sticker on national television after the game. In the Blue Raiders' historic win over the Terps, Craddock set career highs for completions and attempts.
2.] Mark Fisher
Fisher has the tall task of slowing down one of the SEC's top pass rushers. Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon is a candidate for the Hendricks award, handed out annually to the nation's top defensive end. Jarmon was picked pre-season second team all SEC and led the Wildcats on defense last year with 62 tackles and 9 1/2 sacks. MT did a nice job keeping Maryland's defensive line from pressuring Craddock and didn't allow a single sack against the Terrapins. In order for the Blue Raider offense to run with similar efficency, Fisher must slow one of the SEC's top defensive talents. The entire offensive line must also be on guard against pre-snap penalties as the Blue Raiders face deafening crowd noise on the road for the first time.
3.] Malcolm Beyah
Beyah has been a pleasant surprise through two games for the Raiders. One of the squad's major question marks heading into the season was the lack of playmaking ability at the wide receiver position, but Beyah has stepped up to alleviate those concerns. In his first two games of his college career, Beyah has helped the team show critics that the Middle Tennessee wideouts have plenty of explosiveness. The speedy and athletic Beyah has six catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, good for an average of 23 yards per catch.
4.] Wes Hofacker
Pressuring Kentucky's rookie quarterbacks will be key for the Raiders to have success defensively on Saturday. Young quarterbacks are prone to make mistakes under pressure and Wes Hofacker must lead the charge off the edge. Hofacker has one sack this year and needs to create havoc in the backfield to force the hand of young Wildcat quarterbacks Mike Hartline and Randall Cobb. Kentucky has yielded just two sacks this season.
5.] Alan Gendreau
Middle Tennessee fans have been very pleased with the production from Genndreau. Special teams blunders haunted the Blue Raiders in 2007 and Gendreau has provided fans with plenty of optisim for the kicking game. The true freshman out of Florida has connected on two of his three field goal attempts this season. However, this will be his first time kicking on the road. A hostile SEC crowd on the road can rattle a lot of freshmen's nerves. Gendreau has to rise above that to give his team a chance at victory.