Location: Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Game Time: 8 PM ET
How To Watch: CBS Sports Network
Series History: Known as the “100 Miles of Hate” rivalry for the short distance that separates the two schools, MTSU leads the all-time series at 34 wins compared to WKU’s 32 wins. The two teams also tied once back in 1925. 2017’s meeting ended as a 41-38 victory for WKU after Ryan Nuss hit the game-winning field goal in triple overtime.
At 5-3, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders look set to reach yet another bowl game in quarterback Brent Stockstill’s final college campaign. The Blue Raiders haven’t had much issue putting points on the board save for two games against the SEC where they only scored seven at Vanderbilt and Georgia. Stockstill himself has accounted for 17 touchdowns (15 passing, two rushing) while throwing five interceptions. Because of the name recognition of the quarterback and some other pieces of the offense though, some overlook a major part of why MTSU has a winning record this year: the defense.
The Blue Raiders are tied for third in the league with nine team interceptions and a league-leading three returned for touchdowns. Senior safety Wesley Bush leads the team with three picks and has taken one to the house. Sophomore safety Reed Blankenship snagged his first interception of the year last week against Old Dominion and somehow turned it into a 100-yard pick six. Needless to say, MTSU can put up points on both sides of the ball.
Just up the road in Bowling Green, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers continue one of their most disappointing seasons of the last decade. The 1-7 Tops have simply struggled to get points on the board this season. With only 20 touchdowns to show for their efforts, WKU ranks 111th out of 130 FBS teams in the S&P+ rankings. They enter this game coming off a 38-17 loss at home to FIU.
Some bright spots for WKU include redshirt junior defensive back Ta’Corian Darden who has broken up ten passes this season (including one interception) and linebacker Ben Holt who broke WKU’s FBS era record for total tackles in a game with 19. Holt ranks fourth in all of C-USA this year with 75 total tackles.
While the Tops have talent, their offense has to step their game up if they want to keep pace in this one.
MTSU wins this game 38-20. MTSU is on a roll and WKU’s red zone struggles are just too much to overlook. While it’s a relatively short bus ride back to Bowling Green, it could feel a lot longer on Friday night.