Photo by Brent Beerends / MT Athletic Communications
Story by Tim Carroll / Contributing Writer
With college football camps starting in late July, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are ready to continue preparations for the 2017 season.
The 2016 season was fairly successful, as Middle Tennessee started 6-2 and appeared to be geared to win their first Conference USA championship. Those plans were muffed however as quarterback Brent Stockstill suffered a collarbone injury against UT-San Antonio.
The Blue Raiders finished the season 2-2 in their final four games and were matched against Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. Stockstill made his return from the injury but after a fast start, he began to show the signs of fatigue and Middle Tennessee fell in 52-35 fashion to the Rainbow Warriors.
In anticipation for the new season, here are five games that Blue Raider fans should look out for in the upcoming schedule.
1. Western Kentucky University
When: November 17 at 7 p.m.
Where: Bowling Green, Kentucky
There’s no better way to start off this list than with the most heated rivalry in C-USA. Anytime these two teams play, it’s always guaranteed to be a hard-fought battle with each team giving it their all. In 2016, this match-up was decided in double overtime as the Hilltoppers defeated the Blue Raiders by a final score of 44-43. This loss is likely still weighing heavy on the minds of many players, and they will want to exact their revenge on WKU this coming season.
2. Vanderbilt University
When: September 2 at 7 p.m.
Where: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Anytime a school from the Southeastern Conference shows up to Floyd Stadium, there is a certain level of energy present in the atmosphere. After the Commodores’ stunning defeat of the Blue Raiders in the 2016 meeting, this too will open up fresh wounds for the players who will want to avenge that loss. Even though they aren’t in the same conference, both sides will take this rivalry seriously as the schools are only separated by a little under 40 miles. With both teams returning their starting quarterbacks and MTSU looking to make a big statement on opening day, expect this game to be a shootout.
3. Florida Atlantic University
When: September 30, time TBD
Where: Boca Raton, Florida
FAU made headlines this offseason when they hired Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin as their new head coach. For fans in the Volunteer state, many remember him as an ex-Tennessee Volunteer coach who was known for ruffling the feathers of other SEC teams. For an up-and-coming Middle Tennessee team, this provides a chance to beat an established coach and continue their great play over the Owls. The two teams put together an offensive display for the record book, as the Blue Raiders won a 77-56 decision at Floyd Stadium in the regular season finale.
4. University of Minnesota
When: September 16 at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota
This is a game that could turn many heads towards Middle Tennessee should they pull off the upset. The last time these two teams faced off was in 2014, which was a Golden Gopher victory in 35-24 fashion. Although they are not really a juggernaut of a team in their conference, the pedigree and expectations of being a school from the Big-10 will be enough to motivate the Blue Raiders and give them momentum moving forward if they win.
5. Old Dominion University
When: November 25, time TBD
Where: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The Monarchs were the second best team in the conference this past season, despite getting inconsistent play at quarterback. Their conference record matched WKU’s at 7-1, so expect them to be in contention for the conference title again this year. This is a home game for the Raiders and if both teams perform as expected throughout the season, this game could potentially determine who gets to play in the C-USA Championship.
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