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October 16, 2008

Raiders on the spot: Louisville

Middle Tennessee and Louisville meet for the third straight year on Saturday and the Blue Raiders hope to pull off their second win of the season over a BCS league foe.

Which Blue Raiders should you keep a close eye on when the ball kicks off at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium?

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

1.] Dwight Dasher

Dasher enters the game with Louisville still ranked second on the depth chart at quarterback, but head coach Rick Stockstill has said this week that Dasher will get some playing time following his solid effort last week at FIU. Dasher entered that game and sparked the Blue Raider offense by air and by ground. Be on the lookout for him against the Cardinals, who have not seen Dasher up close and personal. Joe Craddock went the distance in last year's 58-42 Louisville win. However many series Dasher plays, he can improve his team's chances of staying competitive into the fourth quarter if he can once again help to balance the offense.

2.] Phillip Tanner

Tanner had his best game of the season at FIU, rushing for 79 yards and two touchdowns. That performance gives some added reason for optimism about the Blue Raider ground attack, which has struggled to get fully on track this year. Can Tanner put together another productive outing against Louisville, which is drastically improved defensively over last season and ranks ninth nationally in run defense. Tanner exploded for 144 yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinals last year.

3.] Ivon Hickmon

Hickmon has had six tackles in each of Middle Tennessee's first two games against BCS opponents this season and he recorded a sack against Maryland. Louisville running back Victor Anderson has been a strong presence in the Cardinal ground game since the season opener against Kentucky. In the four games that have followed since that season opening loss, Anderson has totaled 471 yards and five touchdowns. Hickmon and the rest of the Blue Raider front seven will have to answer the call to make sure Anderson doesn't get running downhill against the Blue Raiders.

4.] Wes Caldwell

Middle Tennessee could potentially be without both Malcolm Beyah and Sancho McDonald in the receiving corps, which means the Blue Raiders may need someone to step up and help complement leading receiver Patrick Honeycutt. Some of the load could be handled by Eldred King, but Caldwell may be the key guy to watch. The Kentucky native caught multiple passes in three of the first four games of the season but has caught just one pass in each of the last two games. In his first game in his home state earlier this year, Caldwell caught just one pass for three yards. He no doubt would like to do better at Louisville.

5.] Desmond Gee

Gee has been quiet in recent weeks for the Blue Raiders. He's accounted for just 48 yards from scrimmage in the last three games, but his presence always has to be acknowledged by defenses. Where he could most help MT this week is in special teams. He has four kick returns this year of 30 yards or more and the Blue Raiders could use more of that kind of production to help with field position against the Louisville defense. If Beyah is held out or limited due to his injury, Gee also becomes more on the spot because the Blue Raiders would be minus one of their top big play threats.

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