During the Sun Belt Preseason Media Days, a few months ago, new Arkansas State head football coach, Gus Malzahn, said this about the growth of the conference: “This is a conference on the rise. You can really sense the momentum that the conference has.”
Now, that statement is coming from a coach that spent the past few seasons in the SEC. Now, as we are in October, he is right. Thanks in part to a few wins by SBC teams against squads from the BCS conferences.
However, most of the national media still gives the SBC no respect as a football conference. Legendary comedian and actor, Rodney Dangerfield had a famous quote about the lack of it.
“I don’t get no respect,” Dangerfield said.
MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill added this during Monday’s SBC weekly teleconference.
“This conference is very underrated. There are good players, and good coaches in this conference. We just do not gain the national respect that we deserve. Anytime a team beats another team, it just brings more exposure and more creditability to our conference.”
I hope the Sun Belt finally gets some respect after MTSU went into Georgia Tech territory Saturday and pulled off an unbelievable 49-28 victory over the ACC school.
It was not even close throughout the game as the Blue Raiders dominated all aspects of the game. It was two play makers, senior running back Benny Cunningham and senior wide receiver Anthony Amos, who helped lead MTSU to its third victory against an ACC team in school history, and its third win in a row during the 2012 season.
By the way, their performances gave the Blue Raiders much deserved exposure by the national media. First off, Cunningham’s performance, five touchdowns and 217 yards on the ground, should go down as one of the best single-game spectacles in Blue Raider history. He made it look easy against the Yellow Jacket defense, and help jump start the rest of his teammates with his punishing style of running the ball.
“He is a very talented young man. He works his tail off and gives great effort in everything he does. He energized our sidelines with his runs on Saturday,”Stockstill said.
You remember the lack of respect thing from the national media. Well, give them credit, Cunningham got lots of it on Saturday. By far, his performance earned him SBC Offensive Player of the Week. Also, he earned several other weekly honors from many publications. ESPN weekly wrap-up college football show, “College Football Final” gave him a helmet sticker for having one of the top performances around the nation Saturday.
The network also showed some love to Amos for his incredible one-handed catch in the back of the end zone for the Blue Raiders first touchdown of the contest. The clip was played over and over again throughout the day on “Sports Center.”
However, most of the national media will play this off as Yellow Jackets were not at good as advertised at the beginning of the season, and place the blame on the lack of fight in them during Saturday’s embarrassing home loss.
Instead, it should be giving credit to the Blue Raiders for the way, the MTSU defense shut down GT’s unique and hard to stop offense, the spread option. Coming into the game, the Yellow Jackets were ranked third in the nation in rushing yards with 352.3 yards on the ground. The Blue Raider defense held them to only 238, and the MTSU front line sacked the GT quarterback four times.
Of course, this is the third high-profile win, the SBC has enjoyed over a power conference this season. The Blue Raiders rival, Western Kentucky knocked off SEC-school Kentucky a few weeks ago. However, the biggest upset came from the Blue Raiders opponent this week, Louisiana-Monroe.
The Warhawks opened up its 2012 season on Sept. 8 at then-ranked No. 8 Arkansas. By now, you know the ending, when ULM scored a touchdown in overtime to shock the Razorbacks fans and the rest of the nation, 34-31. UA has not been the same since the loss.
This week, ULM travels to Floyd Stadium for the Blue Raiders homecoming. It is one of the most anticipated SBC games of the season since both teams have knocked off the so-called “big boys” already in 2012. Since the Blue Raiders win on Saturday, the interview requests for Stockstill has increased to some national media.
Stockstill and the rest of the program deserves it. I just hope it does not happen only when one of the bigger teams gets beat by a SBC team.
The SBC deserves better respect than that from the rest of the nation on a regular basis.