It’s college football rivalry week across this nation. For the Blue Raiders, hated rival the Troy Trojans come to Floyd Stadium for the final home game of the 2012 season Saturday.
Blue Raider wide receiver Anthony Amos (6) escape being tackled Nov. 17, 2012, during the MTSU 20-12 win over South Alabama in Mobile, Ala. (Photo courtesy of MTSU Athletics/B. Lambert)
A MTSU win would mean a first place tie in the Sun Belt title, but the Raiders have not defeated the Trojans since 2005.
A lot is on the line this Saturday for the Blue Raiders. If they win against Troy for the first time under Head Coach Rick Stockstill, MTSU would face Arkansas State on Dec. 1 for the SBC conference title.
While, Troy hopes to end its 2012 season with a win to put them at 6-6 and make them the sixth team out of the SBC to become bowl eligible.
Stockstill knows the huge implications of this game.
“That puts us in a position with two weeks to go,” Stockstill said. “This is a huge game coming up for us. ... It ought to be a heck of a game, and both teams will be excited to play it.”
Both teams are coming off key conference tests last weekend. The Blue Raiders beat SBC football newcomer South Alabama, 20-12, thanks in part to the play of this week’s SBC Defensive Player of the Week, junior safety Jajuan Harley.
In the win, Harley had a busy game with two interceptions, five tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to help put the Blue Raiders at 7-3 overall, 5-1 in the conference.
As for the Trojans, they fell to SBC leader ASU, 41-34. But Troy has proven this season, it can hang with some of the teams from the top conferences, including a win against Navy. Also, Troy lost by a combined 14 points against SEC schools, Tennessee and Mississippi State.
As for this rivalry with the Blue Raiders, the Trojans have not lost to MTSU since 2005, when the Blue Raiders were led by former head coach Andy McCollum.
Currently, the Trojans have won six in a row against the Blue Raiders. Also, the Battle of the Palladium trophy is on the line, which goes to the winner of this contest.
“We have been pretty equal,” Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. “I think a lot of those could have gone either way. I think its a healthy deal between the two schools. We need to win just as badly as them. We have a lot of respect for the Blue Raiders.”
This Saturday’s game also marks the end of the road for the Blue Raiders seniors, which is one of the smallest groups in the SBC.
Most of the 16 seniors, including injured running back Benny Cunningham, wide receiver Anthony Amos, defensive end Omar McLendon, have been through ups and downs during their stay here in Murfreesboro.
This year, however, it is on the up swing with MTSU facing a chance to go to its third bowl game in four seasons. Stockstill credits the senior leadership for the turnaround this season and knows they will be missed.
“I have a lot of respect for those guys,” Stockstill said about his senior class. “They have a chance to go out of here and go to bowls three out of their four years. They are having a heck of a year individually. I’m proud of everything they have done, and how much they mean to me personally. They will be life-long friends, and I’ll be their biggest fan when they get out of here. I know they will be successful in life.”
Saturday’s kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. inside Floyd Stadium and it will be shown on ESPN3.com.