Middle Tennessee State and Mississippi State: Previewing The ESPN Battle

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IOctober 11, 2009

After what has be viewed as a disappointing loss to Troy on Tuesday night, the Blue Raiders return home to take on the SEC's Mississippi State Bull Dogs.

The ESPN network chose to pick up this game and air it on ESPNU at noon eastern time. This decision was made one day before the MTSU and Troy debacle.

The Blue Raiders are looking to make their second chance on national TV a success with a victory over another BCS team.

Fans of the Blue Raiders are not unfamiliar with the Bull Dogs. Just last season Middle Tennessee went down to Starkville losing 31-22 en route to a 5-7 season. 

This year's game looks to be different as Mississippi State's defense has only shut down Vanderbilt this season. The Blue Raiders will be looking to get their Tony Franklin offense back into gear after Dwight Dasher forgot to show up against Troy.

Beating a low tier SEC squad is not new to the Blue Raiders. They have a 3-0 record against Vanderbilt, but most people do not acknowledge these victories as significant.

What would it mean to Middle Tennessee if they were to beat Mississippi State?

The first thing to look it is the team's overall record. If the Blue Raiders were to win they'd improve to 4-2 with a 'should win' upcoming against Western Kentucky.

Coach Rick Stockstill continuously says, "Don't put the cart in front of the horse."

But with a win against Mississippi State and Western Kentucky the Blue Raiders will be looking for a Bowl bid standing at 5-2 overall with three out of conference victories.

A Blue Raider victory would also legitimize a team that missed out on an opportunity last Tuesday. Middle Tennessee has continually been looked at as a team who just can't win the big one.

Whether that's true, or simply too high of fan's expectations, another SEC win would help their cause in becoming a "legitimate football team."

The Sun Belt, has only one automatic Bowl bid, meaning that Middle Tennessee needs to jump Louisiana-Monroe and Troy to guarantee a spot in New Orleans in the New Orleans Bowl.

Any at-large bid to a Bowl game will help further the expectations of Middle Tennessee football. Its 2006 appearance in the Motor City Bowl was the team's first Bowl game as a Division-I squad.

I believe this non-conference game is the biggest on the Blue Raider's schedule. These are the games that can define a team. A win will give the team the confidence it lost Tuesday at Troy.

A loss to Mississippi State will prove to the pundits that every Sun Belt member is simply the whipping boys to major college football.

I'll have my predictions upcoming for Saturday's game.