MTSU Has Plenty of Good Reasons to Play at No. 3 Georgia

Sep 12, 2018 at 10:30 am by joelabarker

MTSU Blue Raiders

This weekend, the MTSU Blue Raiders Football team will travel to Athens, Ga., to take on SEC beast Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia is a 32-point favorite versus the Blue Raiders.

The question is, why in the world would Middle Tennessee State agree to such a matchup?

While an MTSU upset of the nation's No. 3 team is about as likely as I-24 West being completely traffic-free tomorrow morning, there are a number of really good reasons why MTSU is playing at Georgia this weekend.

It will bring in a nice chunk of change

Why do teams from Conference USA and other non-Power-Five conference play against the big boys?

For one, it's a huge payday. Consider that Middle Tennessee State will receive just over $3.1M for playing the SEC East trio of Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Kentucky this season.

For a Conference USA program trying to make a mark in its city and region, that's no chump change.

In case you didn't already know, big time College Football is a cash cow. That's especially true for the Power-Five conferences—the SEC, ACC, Pac 12, Big 10, and the Big 12.

In fact, the SEC brought in $596.9 million in revenue last season alone. As a result, each SEC school received a payout of $40.9 million. Compare the SEC revenue payout to Conference USA's average payout of $400,000 per school and you see a vast disparity.

When a program like MTSU can get a big payday just for showing up to play an SEC behemoth like Georgia, it helps not only football but other non-revenue sports at the school as well.

There's no such thing as bad publicity

Not only will the MTSU athletics program receive a hefty payout Saturday night, the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN 2.

Even though the Blue Raiders will take their lumps in front of a national television audience, the exposure gained for the program is worth whatever beating they may take.

Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game, MTSU coaches have probably already used the exposure argument when trying to land prized recruits. Counting on a handful of nationally televised games every year is a major selling point for high school prospects.

Brand Awareness

A key part of exposure is brand awareness. When Mr. or Mrs. College Football Fan sits down Saturday evening to watch the game on ESPN 2, he or she will see the slick silver helmets featuring the blue stripe down the middle and the big block "MT" on the side.

Middle Tennessee's brand received major publicity when the basketball team upset No. 2-seeded Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament in March 2016. Being on the national stage gave MTSU the opportunity to extend its brand. Winning the game, sent the school's brand awareness into the stratosphere.

Let's allow our imagination to run wild for a minute.

Perhaps Georgia is sluggish Saturday night coming off their lopsided victory over South Carolina last weekend. Perhaps Middle Tennessee plays above its head for even a half. Maybe Georgia sleepwalks through three quarters and doesn't take the game seriously until the waning moments.

We've seen those kinds of scenarios play out before with top teams.

Although highly unlikely, the benefit to the brand from such a result would be on par with the basketball team's upset of Michigan State in 2016.

Competitors love to compete

Obviously, hanging with an incredibly talented Georgia team will be a monumental task for the Blue Raiders, but there's not an athlete worth his or her salt that wouldn't want to face the best of the best.

Games like this one are measuring-stick opportunities. Regardless of what the experts think or say about the game, competitors compete. There's pride on the line. Every position player will go into the game hoping to win their own personal matchup against the best of the best at any given position. It's the nature of premier athletes.

Yes, Georgia is stacked with 4- and 5-star recruits, but it takes talent to play at any level in collegiate athletics. Georgia has more talent and greater depth.

However, these MTSU student-athletes have worked just as hard and sacrificed just as much as any Bulldog on the Georgia roster. The Blue Raiders are itching to try and measure up Saturday night.

Kickoff is set for Saturday at 6:15 CT.

*Update - Due to Hurricane Florence, kickoff has been moved to 11am CT on Saturday. The game will no longer be carried by ESPN 2. The broadcast has been moved to ESPN News. 

Photo courtesy of Tina Barker

Sections: Sports