Tall task awaits Blue Raiders at Iowa this weekend

Sep 28, 2019 at 08:00 am by joelabarker

MTSU Blue Raiders

Last year, Middle Tennessee went through an SEC gauntlet facing Vanderbilt, No. 2-ranked Georgia, and Kentucky on their respective home fields. The results didn't go the way the Blue Raider faithful wanted, but the money earned and exposure gained made those trips worthwhile.

This year is no different. MTSU opened the season at the Big House in Ann Arbor Michigan, played Duke in Murfreesboro, and now travels to Iowa City this weekend to take on the No. 14-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes.

Like last year at Georgia, there is a hefty paycheck involved and the game will be televised on ESPN 2 at 11am before a national television audience.

The Blue Raiders held their own in Ann Arbor on the season's first weekend losing 40-21. Against Iowa, head coach Rick Stockstill knows what type of challenge awaits his team.

"We've got a great challenge ahead of us, and a great opportunity ahead of us, one that we're looking forward to." Stockstill told reporters at his weekly press conference on Monday.

Stockstill continued, "We've got to be a level ahead of their toughness because they're a tough, physical football team."

Ranking No. 11 nationally in total defense, Iowa has proven especially stingy on that side of the ball on the young season. Led by one of the nation's best defenders, DE A.J. Epenesa, just moving the ball forward on offense will be difficult on Saturday.

"He's going to make plays, and we'll have our time when we make plays. He's a good football player," Stockstill remarked about Epenesa Monday.

Of course the Blue Raiders have some firepower of their own on offense. MT quarterback Asher O'Hara has completed 70-percent of his passes and boasts a 170.0 QB rating which ranks No. 22 nationally among a bunch of QBs that will be playing on Sundays in the not-so-distant future.

Both teams are coming off a bye week and Iowa has a big game coming up at No. 20 Michigan next week. A close hard-fought affair Saturday at Iowa would potentially cast this Blue Raider team in a new light heading into C-USA play versus Marshall next weekend.

Middle Tennessee is a 23.5-point underdog at Iowa.

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