• The matchup: Middle Tennessee State (4-2) at No. 15 MSU (6-0)
• The kickoff: 6 p.m., ESPN2
• The weather: Beautiful. High of 71, temps dropping down into the high 40s overnight. Clear skies, no chance of rain.
• The line: MSU –18.5
The Bulldogs have a chance to go to 7-0, one win shy of the best-ever start in school history (8-0 in 1999). I wrote earlier in the week about how this could be a trap game, seeing as how it’s wedged between the Tennessee and Alabama games. The Bulldogs are riding high after the UT win, but then, they were riding high after beating Auburn and almost got upended by Troy.
Little different situation here. That game was at Troy, this one’s at home. Troy had all its important pieces, while MTSU is without leading rusher Benny Cunningham. Put him in the mix, and I’d give MTSU a fighting chance. Perhaps LSU transfer Drayton Calhoun or some other tailback will surprise us, and let’s not forget that MSU had trouble with Tennessee’s backs. But I’d be surprised if Middle Tennessee gained a ton of yards on the ground.
Plus, you figure MSU learned its lesson from the Auburn-Troy deal. Coaches and players have said that practices have been great this week and the focus has been calibrated just right. They say there are no lingering glances back at last week’s win and no peeking ahead to Alabama. If true, then MSU should be just fine.
It’s homecoming, for whatever that’s worth; I’m not sure if that’s really a potential distraction for players. Maybe more so for a high school team.
What this game needs to be for MSU is a thoroughly dominant win, because that’s what teams ranked 12th in the BCS do to teams from the Sun Belt Conference. I believe that’ll happen. The offense will build on last week’s performance, and the defense will keep the Blue Raiders in check.
• The prediction: MSU 48, MTSU 14.