Date: Saturday, October 15, 2016
Kickoff Time: 1:30 PM CDT
Location: Murfreesboro, TN
Stadium: Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium
Series Record: MTSU leads 33-30-1
Last Meeting: 2015, WKU 58-28
Betting Line: MTSU -2.5
It’s homecoming in Murfreesboro, but that’s not important. Only one thing matters this Saturday: the Hilltoppers are coming to town.
The “100 Miles of Hate” is C-USA East’s most historic and most played rivalry. And with Marshall not performing up to their usual standard so far this season, the 2016 edition could very well determine who wins the division halfway through the season.
These two teams have met a total of 64 times going back to 1914. There have a been a few breaks mixed in as they have navigated different conferences and levels of play, but for the most part they have played each other consistently. The series went on hold after the 1991 match-up, but was renewed in 2007 as WKU began the transition to FBS. They competed as Sun Belt opponents from 2009-2012 and C-USA opponents since 2014.
The rivalry series has been fairly close and competitive for most of its history, but there have been streaks. After losing the first two games, WKU won 9 of the next 10, with the only game they didn’t win being a tie. MTSU started to dominate in the mid 50’s, and it’s gone back and forth since then. Since the renewal of the series in 2007, MTSU has gone 5-3 against the Toppers.
If you don’t think this is a big deal, let Twitter educate you.
For crying out loud, there’s a whole Twitter page just for this rivalry!
Both teams have played Louisiana Tech so far. Remember those offensive shootouts? Yeah, it’s gonna be like that, except these two teams really really really don’t like each other.
You’ve got two quarterbacks who are both in the top 20 nationally in WKU’s Mike White and MTSU’s Brent Stockstill. Give those quarterbacks three top 20 wide receivers (WKU’s Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris and MTSU’s Richie James) and throw in the 17th ranked running back in MTSU’s I’Tavius Mathers and you’ve got yourself a game that would make even the Big XII drool. (And no, I will not stop making Big XII jokes until they decide who the hell they’re adding, and even then I probably won’t stop).
Don’t forget special teams, however. It’s that part of the game that is so easy to overlook. Special teams was a major part of last week’s La Tech - WKU matchup. Tech essentially won via a 54-yard field goal. But don’t overlook that, otherwise, WKU dominated the special teams fight. Two huge kickoff returns (one to midfield plus one to the red zone) forced Tech to kick short for the rest of the game and give up the field position battle. And of course, the play that almost got WKU back into the game was the blocked punt scooped up for a touchdown that made it a 3 point game. Expect WKU to play very good special teams this time around, as well. That could give them the edge, but it wasn’t enough against Tech, so will it really be good enough against MTSU?
Outside of the rivalry aspect, probably the biggest reason to get excited about this game is that it won’t be over until it’s over. Both had to come back from big deficits against La Tech. MTSU did it, WKU almost did. Take two teams that can come from behind, add in the fact they hate each other (have I mentioned that before?), and finish with the fact the winner will probably be in the C-USA Championship Game, and you’ve got a game where no one will quit fighting to win it until the refs pull them apart.
Both teams can put on an air show. WKU can add special teams to that resume, MTSU can boast a strong running back. Both QB’s can take care of the ball (only 7 combined picks on a combined 409 pass attempts). Offense will dominate this game, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Either these teams will go blow for blow and keep pace with each other the entire game, or one will break out to a big lead but the other will fight back. Either way, don’t turn this game off until it reads 0:00 on the clock.
Emotions will be high. It’s at MTSU, homecoming, and the Blue Raiders will want revenge after last year’s drubbing. WKU won the conference last year, and now MTSU has a chance to win its first conference title since 2006. There’s a lot riding on this game.
MTSU will be well rested as they’re coming off a bye week, while WKU is coming off a heartbreaking loss on the road at La Tech. As strong as WKU is as a team, MTSU is a bit more complete. This will be a hard-fought game, but in the end, I think MTSU will get revenge and be in the driver seat to win the East and probably host the C-USA Championship Game.
But, this is a rivalry game. Anything can happen.
MTSU 45, WKU 42