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Middle Tennessee State: What is this year's must win game of the 2016 season?

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Which game will determine if MTSU can live up to the hype? I think its pretty obvious.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Eery team has a "must-win game." Sometimes its a rivalry game, sometimes its a division foe or maybe even a non-conference opponent. No matter the case, every team has a game that they absolutely must win in order to accomplish their goals.

After earning the selection of being picked to win CUSA East, expectations have been set for Rick Stockstill and the Blue Raiders: A division title and a conference championship. Here are three options that qualify as a must-win if the Blue Raiders are to accomplish that feat.

Sept. 24 - vs Louisiana Tech

This game will set the tone for the season. When Louisiana Tech enters Murfreesboro MTSU could be 1-2 after trips to Bowling Green and Vanderbilt.

That won't mean that the Blue Raiders were frauds, it just means that this conference opener will be a good indicator of whether the Blue Raiders were ready for the hype.

The Bulldogs could also be 1-2 after games against Arkansas and Texas Tech so MTSU will be playing a desperate Louisiana Tech squad. It is a transition year for Tech as they will still be breaking in a new backfield at this point in the schedule after losing Jeff Driskel and Kenneth Dixon to graduation.

MTSU should come away with a win so a loss here would be pretty deflating for the MTSU faithful.

Oct. 15 - vs Western Kentucky

The Blue Raiders will be well rested when they welcome last year's winners of Conference USA as they will have two weeks to prepare for the Hilltoppers.

These two schools have developed a nice rivalry dating back to their FCS days and has continued since joining the FBS ranks. MTSU leads the all-time series 34-30-1. Last year WKU dominated Middle Tennessee 58-28.

At this point in the year we will know all about what WKU is bringing to the table. The media picked WKU to finish second behind MTSU so many see CUSA East coming down to this contest.

Despite it being a home game, S&P pegs MTSU as an underdog as they are given just a 36% chance of coming away with a win.

Nov. 12 - At Marshall

A lot could be on the line when these two teams get together. Both have the potential of not only entering this contest with the division still at stake, but they both could also be ranked with a shot at nabbing the NY6 bowl slot.

MTSU defeated Marshall in triple overtime last year but this year will have to play in Joan Edwards Stadium where Marshall boasts an incredible .850 winning percentage since 1991. Its easily the toughest venue in CUSA and would be an amazing feat for MTSU to come away with a win.

Verdict

Losing to Louisiana Tech to open conference play would be extremely deflating and if they have a losing record in non-conference play, this game could leave the Blue Raiders scrambling for a bowl bid.

But my vote goes to WKU. It's a rivalry game at home against the defending champs. In my eyes WKU is still the best team in CUSA. Much has been made about MTSU winning the division but until they beat WKU the division title still runs through Bowling Green.

A loss to WKU for the second straight year would significantly decrease their odds of winning CUSA East. Stockstill has yet to win an outright conference championship in his ten years at MTSU and a loss to WKU would make that 11.

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