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September 29, 2008

Raiders on the spot: FAU

Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic take center stage nationally Tuesday night at Floyd Stadium.

With the bright lights of national television shining down on Horace Jones Field, the stakes will be high for the Blue Raiders and the Owls.

Though FAU is off to a disappointing 1-3 start, the Owls still boast one of the Sun Belt's most talented and dangerous rosters.

Which Blue Raiders should you keep a close eye on?

GoMiddle.com picks out the five MT players most on the spot against the Owls.

1.] Phillip Tanner

Middle Tennessee has had problems running the football this season but the team's ground game fortunes could improve Tuesday against Florida Atlantic. The Owls have had major issues stopping the run. FAU has allowed opponents to rack up nearly 215 yards per game on the ground through the first four games. Considering FAU's problems in the trenches, Tanner has a golden opportunity to bolster the Blue Raiders' power running game between the tackles. Tanner is currently 12th in the Sun Belt in rushing, averaging a little more than 38 yards per game.




2.] Joe Craddock

Craddock has been the driving force behind Middle Tennessee's offense, which leads the Sun Belt in passing. The senior has discovered many new receiving weapons this year including newcomers Malcolm Beyah, Eldred King and Sancho McDonald. Craddock must once again be on top of his game on this big stage Tuesday night by keeping his cool under pressure and continuing to develop the nice rhythm with his array of receiving threats. The senior has performed well so far in big games this year, including big number performances against BCS opponents Maryland and Kentucky.



3.] Emmanuel Perez

The Blue Raiders need to rachet up the pass rush this week when they face a potentially lethal FAU offense. Veteran FAU quarterback Rusty Smith proved many times last season just how difficult he can make it for opposing secondaries. Smith led a high scoring offense that helped the Owls to the league title last year. In order for the Raiders to slow down FAU, Perez must lead the charge in putting heat on Smith. The Owls have been prone to make mistakes this season and are last in the league in turnover ratio. Perez has had a very good season so far and has vaulted to the top of the depth chart. He will need a big effort against an offensive line that has yielded only one sack so far this year.


4.] Patrick Honeycutt

Middle Tennessee's fearless receiving threat finally broke through with a big time performance last week in a losing effort at Arkansas State. Honeycutt had his finest performance of the season with 11 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown against the Red Wolves. Honeycutt hopes to help boost the passing game again this week against the FAU defense. The Owls have struggled defending the pass. They are 6th in the Sun Belt in pass defense, allowing opponents to pick up an average of 230 passing yards per game. Expect Honeycutt to be a constant threat in all areas of the field. He has demonstrated ability to catch balls in traffic over the middle as well as on the perimeter near the sideline.



5.] Jeremy Kellem

Kellem will serve as the Raiders last line of defense against Rusty Smith and the high powered FAU offense. The Owls feature plenty of big play ability at receiver and have been known to feast on the deep ball. Smith has had a tendency to look down field quite a bit this season and is averaging right around 15 yards per completion. Kellem must be ready at all times for the Owls to go after the big play. The sophomore has enjoyed a stellar campaign so far and leads the team with 29 tackles. In the first two games of the season, FAU threw four touchdowns of at least 20 yards. One poor pursuit angle or missed assignment in the deep secondary can spell trouble in an instant against the Owls.



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