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The MAC champs will be back on the field for the first time in over a month on Thursday night at the Bowl. The Miami Redhawks will take on the disappointing Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, who are really just fortunate to be here in a bowl game this year. These two make for very interesting bedmates though on Thursday night, as they have two vastly different styles of playing, which should make the analysis of the Bowl lines very, very interesting. Bowl Matchup: Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs. Miami Redhawks
Date: Thursday, January 6th, 8:00 ET
Location: Ladd Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL Bowl Line: MTSU -2.5
Over/Under 48.5

Blue Raiders Notes: We know that you probably didn't pay all that much attention to Sun Belt football this year, and the two times that you saw the Blue Raiders on national television, they were getting destroyed by the Arkansas State Red Wolves and the Troy Trojans. However, this is a team that is chock full of talent, and it was absolutely a legitimate hope for this team to run the table at the outset of the season. The four game suspension for QB Dwight Dasher really set the whole season up for failure though, and it started right out of the blocks when the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who turned out to be a giant train wreck this year, came into Murfreesboro and beat down the Blue Raiders. All things considered, ranking No. 65 in the nation in total offense at 375.7 yards per game and No. 67 in defense at 376.4 yards per game allowed wasn't all that bad this year. The play of Dasher is critical though, as he is clearly going to be the best athlete on the field at all times, and he is the man that can bust this game wide open… one way or the other… Dasher did had 14 picks this year, which was awful considering the fact that he only played in eight games, and he did account for 13 TDs as well. These numbers were down from last year, but when bowl season rolled around for the Blue Raiders at the New Orleans Bowl in 2009, he accounted for over 350 yards of offense and four TDs in a magnificent display. Obviously, if he does that again, the Blue Raiders are well on their way to beating the Bowl odds.

Redhawks Notes: At least for the whole of the calendar year 2009, there isn't a man in the nation that probably deserves more credit for what he did on the field than Mike Haywood. The former head coach of these Redhawks flew the coop for the Pitt Panthers just before New Years, and though we don't approve of the fact that he was arrested on New Year's Day for a suspicion of domestic violence, thus fired from U-Pitt, we know that he brought a lot to Miami this year. The Redhawks were an embarrassment at 1-11 last season, and they would have just been thrilled with a four or a five win season this year. Even though the schedule at times was rough, particularly out of conference, Miami really excelled, winning nine games, including the MAC Championship Game over the Northern Illinois Huskies in fine fashion. The Redhawks were led by QB Zac Dysert this year, but the second year man lacerated his spleen in the middle of November and hasn't been back on the field since. He probably won't be in the fold this week either, which leaves freshman QB Austin Boucher to lead the troops. Boucher is going to need some help from RB Thomas Merriweather, who rushed for over 800 yards this year and had 11 of the offense's 29 TDs on the season. The real transformation came on the defensive side of the ball. This was one of the best defenses in the MAC this year, allowing 341.7 yards and 23.4 points per game.

The Final Word: The Blue Raiders have a lot more to prove and lot more to be happy about if they beat the Bowl odds in this one than the Redhawks do. Miami could be beaten by 120 in this game, and the season will still be looked at as a tremendous success. For MTSU though, finishing above .500 and with a bowl win in a season that really had so much on the line is paramount, as the program really might not recover if this were to be a losing season. Though we know that Dasher hasn't shown us much of anything all year long, we tend to believe that he gets the job done and puts together another fantastic bowl preparation in a Bowl victory on Thursday night. Bowl Free Pick: Middle Tennessee State -2.5 Bowl Prediction: Middle Tennessee State 31 – Miami 24

Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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