MTSU's football team exceeded expectations in 2018 by playing for the Conference USA championship after being picked to finish third in their own division.
If the Blue Raiders are going to return to the title game this year they'll have to defy the odds again.
Odds makers have put MTSU over/under win total at just 5.5, which is understanding for three reasons.
Firstly, MTSU's non-conference schedule is hardly conducive to success when one considers it faces Michigan and Iowa on the road and Duke at home.
Secondly, MTSU has to replace four-year starting quarterback Brent Stockstill, who rewrote the Blue Raider passing record book.
Thirdly, not only did the Blue Raiders lose their quarterback, they are second to last in the league in returning experience.
MTSU returns just 10 starters -- four on offense and six on defense -- from last year's eight-win team. Only Old Dominion (nine) returns fewer in C-USA.
It's easy to say the quarterback is the most important position, but MTSU must rebuild its offensive line and develop more consistent receivers after too many dropped passes last year.
The Blue Raiders do have two proven offensive players in receiver Ty Lee (71 receptions, 883 yards, seven TDS in 2018) and running back Chaton Mobley, who rushed for 629 yards and four touchdowns while averaging five yard per carry as a freshman.
The Blue Raiders will likely be picked to finish fourth in the East Division behind FIU (16 returning starters), Marshall (14) and FAU (13).
However, as the recent past has shown preseason polls are only good conversation pieces and not always correct.
It will certainly be interesting to see if the Blue Raiders can exceed expectations this year. In order to do that, MTSU fans have to hope returning players – starters and non-starters from a year ago -- will prove to be difference makers in 2019.
C-USA RETURNING STARTERS
Florida Atlantic 7/6
Louisiana Tech 8/5
North Texas 8/6
Old Dominion 4/5
Southern Miss 9/6