MTSU defeated Bowling Green on Saturday, 24-13.
MURFREESBORO — MTSU endured some significant bumps and bruises along the way, but it is now on the other side of what coach Rick Stockstill called the most challenging nonconference schedule in C-USA this year — and with a .500 record, no less.
“To come out of this schedule, these first four (games) with two wins, we’re right in the mix of everything,” Stockstill said. “We just got to get healthy. If we can get healthy and get all our guys out there, then we got a chance to do some special things. And if they don’t, I still believe in this team that we can do some special things.”
MTSUÕs injured quarterback Brent Stockstill talks with players as they come off the field during the game against Bowling Green, on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at MTSU (Photo: HELEN COMER/DNJ)
MTSU is the only team in C-USA to face three Power Five teams this season, but that’s now all in the past. “The preseason is over,” as Stockstill put it. The Blue Raiders begin conference play this week as they attempt to reach their first-ever conference championship game.
Here are the three most important C-USA games MTSU will play this year:
At FAU, Sept. 30
MTSU’s conference-opening game against the Owls is a big one, and not just because it’s the next game on the schedule.
FAU has struggled through the first four games of the Lane Kiffin era, with losses to Army, Wisconsin and Buffalo, and a win over the FCS’s Bethune-Cookman. But Saturday’s game still could represent MTSU’s toughest challenge until November — after FAU, the Blue Raiders next five opponents are FIU, UAB, Marshall, UTEP and Charlotte. A road win against the Owls on Saturday would position MTSU well for that stretch.
“Last year it was scoring fest on both sides of the ball,” Stockstill said of MTSU’s 77-56 win over FAU in 2016. “I know both defenses are going to be motivated to put a better product on the field than we did that game.”
At Western Kentucky, Nov. 17
Last year’s double-overtime thriller between MTSU and WKU — in which a blocked extra point helped the Hilltoppers escape Murfreesboro with a 44-43 win — was the latest in a rivalry that the Blue Raiders lead 34-31-1. Western Kentucky would go on to top C-USA’s East Division before winning its second straight C-USA title.
This year’s edition comes toward the end of the season and could end up serving as a defacto C-USA East Division championship game. MTSU leads the all-time series but has dropped the past two games to WKU. Can the Blue Raiders buck the trend in 2017?
Old Dominion, Nov. 25
Don’t sleep on the Monarchs. While MTSU’s biggest challenger for the East will be WKU, Old Dominion represents the next biggest threat, and the two square off in each team’s regular season finale.
Anderson had 16 carries for 107 yards and six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown against Bowling Green on Saturday.
The Monarchs began 2017 with wins over Albany and UMass, but struggled in losses to UNC and Virginia Tech. Old Dominion was picked to finish third in the East in the C-USA preseason media poll.
The only previous time MTSU faced Old Dominion, in 2014, the Blue Raiders won, 41-28, in Norfolk, Va.