The Blue Raiders have been an enigma throughout the 2009 college football season.
A 3-1 start had Middle Tennessee State fans seeing bowl games, but a recent 0-2 stretch has created worries in Murfreesboro.
Victories over Conference USA member Memphis along with ACC member Maryland on the road had given hope to the Blue Raider faithful as to the success of the newly installed Tony Franklin offense.
But recent outings against Troy, seven points, and Mississippi State, six points, have brought the Raiders back to earth.
The question being asked within Blue Raider nation is: What can be done to fix the slide, and get the Raider back on Bowl game track?
Let’s take a look at the Blue Raiders up to their game this Saturday against Western Kentucky.
The good news for the Raiders is the fact that the tough part of the season is over. They’ve gotten past their non-conference schedule with a 2-2 record.
While it doesn’t sound impressive, consider the fact that no Sun Belt team has ever won three non-conference games against 1-A opponents.
The Blue Raiders will finish the season in Sun Belt play with four home games. Their toughest opponent remaining, Louisiana-Monroe, will be their last game of the season on the road.
Hopefully by then, the Raiders will be bowl eligible.
Another piece of good news is that the Blue Raiders next opponent is the worst team in 1-A football, Western Kentucky.
With such poor performance on the offensive side of the ball, the Blue Raiders will have a practical cupcake to get ready for the remainder of conference play.
Currently the Blue Raiders sit in fourth place in the Sun Belt Conference, but they only have one conference loss.
No team has ever won the Sun Belt with an undefeated conference record, meaning that if the Blue Raiders win out, they could easily be conference champions.
Quarterback play has been a bright spot, or complete black hole depending on the game. Dwight Dasher had looked as if he’d grasped the new offense, but recent play has people questioning.
Dasher was recently suspended for the first quarter against Mississippi State for missing team meetings. Hopefully, that will be a wake-up call for him. If Dasher can get back to his Memphis and Maryland form, the Blue Raiders will be fine.
If Middle Tennessee wants to compete for a Sun Belt title, they’re going to have to establish some sort of running game.
Starting running back Phillip Tanner was lost for the season following the Memphis game, and backup D.D. Kyles is currently injured. If the Blue Raiders can’t threaten to run the ball and get the defense some rest, it might become a long season.
The way I see it, the Blue Raiders are battle tested. If you were to tell fans that the team would be 3-3 coming into Homecoming with Western Kentucky, they’d be all smiles.
If Tony Franklin and Rick Stockstill can get Dwight Dasher back on track, the season looks promising and a 7-5 record looks easily attainable.
With that record, the Blue Raiders will have many opportunities to be an at-large bowl team.
And when you’re in the Sun Belt you’re looking to build your program. A Bowl game is a great stepping stone to continue to grow.