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Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee State: Q&A - Dieter Kurtenbach from Underdog Dynasty

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Dieter Kurtenback, who covers Conference USA for Underdog Dynasty, confirms that Savanna State sucks and tells us about how much the Blue Raiders like to spread the ball around.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

For the second week in a row the Gophers will face a team that is replacing a record-setting QB, but unlike EIU, this week's opponent, the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, has a long-time head coach in Rick Stockstill, at the helm.

Dieter Kurtenbach covers Conference USA for SB Nation blog Underdog Dynasty. He has recently put MTSU at #4 on his Conference USA Power Poll following Week 1. Dieter was nice enough to answer some questions about this week's game.

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JDMill: The last time Minnesota faced the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, Tim Brewster was entering his 4th season as Gophers coach. The Gophers won that day then proceeded to lose 9 straight and Tim Brewster in the process. Enter Jerry Kill and the rebuilding era. In short, the last time these teams met it was the beginning of (the most recent)one of the darkest eras of Gopher football. What has MTSU been up to since 2010?

Dieter Kurtenbach: MTSU has been as steady as any mid-major in the nation over the past three years. After going 2-10 in 2011, the Raiders have won eight games in back-to-back seasons and have really established a niche in recruiting running backs under Rick Stockstill. Record-setting quarterback Logan Kilgore is gone, but Austin Grammer had a strong first game and has Stockstill's full support.

JD: The Blue Raiders beat Savanna State 61-7. Was this the expected outcome? Did MTSU look light-years better than expected, or is Savanna State that bad?

DK: Savannah State is a terrible football program that put out a terrible team Saturday. You need not look further than the fact that SSU only brought their home jerseys to the game, forcing MTSU to have to petition Conference USA to play in their blue uniforms. SSU said their white jerseys weren't ready yet.

JD: QB Austin Grammer (any relation to Kelsey Grammer?) was crazy efficient last weekend against Savanna State going 15/17 for 250, 1 TD & no INT's. What's the steam on Grammer? Is he THAT good, THAT efficient? Or was this more of a product of the team the Blue Raiders faced?

DK: Grammer had an excellent game, and that should boost his confidence, but you'd be hard-pressed to make the argument that the game is indicative of his skill set. We'll find out a lot more about him this Saturday.

JD: Let's talk rushing. I have no clue what to make of the stat sheet. MTSU had three running backs with 8 or more carries, six RB's with at least 2 rushes, and four RB's scored a TD. That's more than running-back-by-committee, that's just... well that's a lot of RB's getting in the mix. Was this a case of sharing the wealth against a poor team? Is there a workhorse in the group that you'd expect to emerge against a defense like Minnesota?

DK: MTSU loves to rotate running backs. It's annoying to the fans, media and defensive coordinators, but effective for the Blue Raiders. Stockstill believes in fresh backs, and recruits more-or-less four of the same players every year to add to the rotation. Jordan Parker is fully healthy and should be the top back, but don't expect him to be a bell cow.

JD: Grammer's 15 completions were also spread out. Eight Blue Raiders had a catch in last weekend's game. Who are the go-to guys in the passing game?

DK: Like at running back, the Raiders like to spread the wealth. They aren't big-play threats, and calling any of the Raiders' receivers "top targets" would be overstating the facts, but MTSU's roster is deep at receiver and loses little at No. 5, 6 and 7 on the depth chart. Marcus Henry is the team's top returning receiver.

JD: MTSU gave up just 7 points, under 230 yards of total offense, and only 84 yards passing. Do you expect the Blue Raiders defense to really be this stout or (/beats a dead horse) was this a case of playing a poor opponent?

DK: Again, MTSU hasn't really played a game yet. We'll find out about this team on Saturday.

JD: Give us some names of Blue Raiders on the defensive side of the ball that we can expect to hear a lot from during Saturday's game.

DK: TT Barber is one of the nation's best linebackers, regardless of school size. Expect him, Kevin Byard and Christian Henry to fly around on Saturday.

JD: Prediction time. Who wins? How do they make it happen? What is the final score?

DK: I'd bet on MTSU to keep the game real close, and beat the spread, but likely lose to Minnesota by 11 points thanks to a strong end-of-third, early-fourth rally. 31-20.

What say YOU, TDG community? 11 points sound about right to you?