Middle Tennessee football will face four 2016 bowl teams, including teams from the ACC, SEC and Big Ten to highlight the 2017 schedule.
The Blue Raiders’ 2017 schedule is being jointly announced today by Conference USA and Director of Athletics Chris Massaro.
“It’s nice that we play everyone in the East again because I believe that is important in determining the division champion,” added Massaro. “We are glad UAB is back to playing football because it’s great for our fans and ultimately balances the schedule.”
“I also like that we play our top rival, WKU, toward the end of the season and I look forward to seeing how it works in that slot.”
The Blue Raiders’ 103rd season of football will include home dates against Vanderbilt, Bowling Green, FIU, Marshall, UTEP and Old Dominion. The road contests will see the Blue Raiders facing Syracuse, Minnesota, FAU, UAB, Charlotte and WKU.
The 2017 alignment will feature seven teams in the East Division and seven teams in the West Division. Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and WKU comprise the East Division, while Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB, UTEP and UTSA make up the West Division.
Each school will play every team in its division once for six games, while playing two cross-over opponents from the opposite division. After having stand-alone schedules for the past four seasons due to realignment, the 2017 season marks the return to a multi-year schedule rotation that will be in place for the next several seasons. Due to the move from 13 teams to 14 teams for 2017, a couple of teams will play division opponents at the same location as 2016, a situation that was unavoidable with the West Division moving from six teams to seven.
The season will get underway on Saturday Sept. 2 at home against neighboring rival Vanderbilt. It will mark the 17th meeting between the two schools with the Commodores owning a 14-3 advantage. The teams have played the last two years in a row and this will be the first time they have faced each other in a season opener since 2001.
The Blue Raiders will then hit the road for back-to-back games against Syracuse of the ACC and Minnesota from the Big Ten. It will mark the first-ever meeting against the Orange and the first time Middle Tennessee has played a football game in the state of New York.
The Golden Gophers and Blue Raiders met in 2010 and 2014 with Minnesota winning both contests.
MT will return home on Sept. 23 to host Bowling Green. It will mark the first time the Falcons have played in Floyd Stadium as the teams met for the first time in 2016 with the Blue Raiders taking a 41-21 decision in Bowling Green.
The Blue Raiders will open conference play on the road for the first time since 2013 when they travel to FAU to face the Lane Kiffin led Owls. MT owns an 11-3 advantage in the series and has won nine straight.
Middle Tennessee will then have its C-USA home opener the next week against FIU and new coach Butch Davis. The Blue Raiders are 8-4 all-time against the Panthers, including 5-1 at home.
After a two-year hiatus from football, UAB is back on the schedule and Middle Tennessee will head south to Birmingham on Oct. 14 to face the Blazers. MT owns a 3-2 advantage in the series and is 2-0 as C-USA members.
Next up will be a home date against Marshall on Oct. 21. The Thundering Herd own a 4-2 lead in the series, which has seen the home team win every game. The two games in Murfreesboro has seen the Blue Raiders win on the final play of the game in 2013 and then picked up a three overtime victory in 2015.
Following an open date, the Blue Raiders will host UTEP on Nov. 4 before going on the road for the second straight year to face Charlotte.
The Blue Raiders will close the 2017 regular season against 2016 bowl winners and double digit victory programs WKU and Old Dominion. MT will travel to WKU on Nov. 18 where it is 14-17 all-time but have won four of the last five.
Middle Tennessee will then host ODU for the first time in school history on Thanksgiving weekend. The Blue Raiders won the only other meeting between the two schools in 2014.
The league will have six guaranteed bowl spots and one secondary agreement in 2017. The guaranteed bowls are the Boca Raton Bowl, Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl and the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. The secondary agreement will be with the Independence Bowl.