On Saturday, Tennessee welcomes the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders into Neyland Stadium. It will be only the second matchup between the two in-state schools in the programs’ histories, with the Vols winning the first game 26-3 in the 2002 season.

However, the Vols cannot overlook the Blue Raiders, who have played close with their competition this season. Three of the team’s five losses have come within three points, including a heartbreaking, last-minute 27-24 season-opening loss at Purdue.

One of the keys to the game for sixth-year coach Rick Stockstill and his Blue Raiders on Saturday will be whether or not they can get their high-tempo offense going against a young but talented Vols defense. Up to this point in the season they have averaged an impressive 462.5 yards per game (289.6 passing/172.9 rushing) and scored nearly 30 points per game.

“They’ve moved the ball on everybody and scored on everybody,” said UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. “They get about 90 plays a game; they run a play about every 16 seconds. They don’t wait for anybody. They went down in their first game of the year against Purdue and moved the ball up and down the field. They move the ball on everybody. They have good speed outside, they can beat you deep and their quarterback is a playmaker. There is plenty to worry about.”

Leading the Blue Raiders’ offensive attack will be redshirt sophomore quarterback Logan Kilgore, who has thrown for over 200 yards in all but one game and has set career highs in passing yardage (1,869) and touchdowns (16).

“The caliber of opponent and the environment we’ll play in heightens the game a little bit, but I think it’s just another game,” said Kilgore, a 6-foot-3, Rocklin, Ca., native. “We felt the same thing when we went to Memphis last year. I think the environment will be live but we’ll be ready to go.”

Sophomore running back William Pratcher will receive the majority of the carries in the backfield this week for the Blue Raiders. Pratcher leads the team in rushing categories with 83 carries for 445 yards and two touchdowns.

While their offense has been a bright spot so far this season, MTSU’s defense has been somewhat of a letdown, as they rank 106th in the nation giving up 34.3 points per game.

Unfortunately for the Blue Raiders, they will visit Knoxville with an even more banged up squad it seems than their opponent, with their injury tally rising to nine for Saturday including three offensive linemen, three wide receivers, two running backs and a linebacker.

The most notable out of all the injuries seems to be to the team’s leading wide receiver, Malcolm Beyah, whose MRI on his injured knee this week came back in as negative and is listed as questionable for the game. Through the team’s first seven games, Beyah has hauled in 39 receptions for 446 yards and six touchdowns.

Despite an injury-depleted team, the Blue Raiders feel as if they are ready for their matchup with their in-state competition.

“It is important for our confidence to start well, to get off on a positive note,” Stockstill said. “We’ve got to be able to move the ball, make some things happen and get it in the end zone early. We are excited about playing Tennessee this weekend. It will be a great opportunity, as well as a great challenge for us.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST, and the game will be broadcast on FSN.