|The next five weeks will decide the best football team in the Sun Belt Conference, and also the teams that will receive the two or maybe more bowl trips.
The top 6 out of 10 are separated only by a game in the standings, meaning any could take the conference title.
With all of the non-conference games done for MTSU, the next five games will decide the season.
Last week, the Blue Raiders finished up non-conference play with a 45-3 loss at No. 11 Mississippi State.
The defeat was lopsided, but give credit to MTSU, who was only down 10-3 at the half.
But Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen gave his team a tongue lashing in the locker room, which helped as the top-ranked team outscored the Blue Raiders 35-0 in the second half.
To be perfectly honest, most people at the beginning of the season were hoping MTSU finished 2-2 during its non-conference play, which included wins at Memphis and the upset at Georgia Tech.
The two losses were against McNeese State and Mississippi State.
Most experts and coaches inside the SBC put more focus on these conference games than most conferences since most SBC teams have hardly a shot to beat the schools from the BCS conferences.
However, as we had seen, the gap is getting closer between the two groups, BCS conferences and non-BCS conferences, especially in the Sun Belt.
Of course, Louisiana-Monroe leads the Sun Belt right now with a 3-0 mark after last week’s come from behind 43-42 overtime win at Western Kentucky.
By now, most fans know what the Warhawks did during its non-conference schedule this season.
Also, ULM knocked off the Blue Raiders 31-17 on Oct. 6.
Right behind the Warhawks, five other teams are tied for second with a 2-1 record inside the Sun Belt, including the Blue Raiders.
In the final five games of the season, MTSU will play three of them starting this week against North Texas.
During the early years of the SBC, the Mean Green dominated the Sun Belt winning the first four conference titles from 2001-04.
However, the program has fallen on hard times since those glory days.
This year, North Texas is enjoying a rebirth under head coach Dan McCarney, who during his career, he has been on staffs that have won conference titles and been in bowl games.
His biggest success came at Iowa State, where he was head coach from 1995-2006, with five of those seasons ending in trips to a bowl game.
Since taking over the Mean Green last season, he has helped bring North Texas back near the top of the Sun Belt standings.
Coming into Saturday’s match up, the Mean Green are 3-4 overall, but two of those losses were to LSU and No. 3 ranked Kansas State.
I think this match up has an old school feel to it like back to those early days of the Sun Belt, where the Blue Raiders and the Mean Green were fighting for the conference title.
On Oct. 16, the Mean Green defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 30-23 on national television.
It was its first win over a team with a 4-1 record or better since 2001.
Back in 2001, it was over a 5-0 Blue Raider team. It wound up starting a 26-game conference winning streak for the Mean Green.
The importance of this match up between MTSU and North Texas is back, and it could help decide a conference title starting this Saturday.