Franklin leads MTSU offense

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 5, 2009

When the Trojans and the Blue Raiders clash tonight for possession of the Palladium at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium, it will be a homecoming of sorts for Middle Tennessee offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Trojans who played under Franklin would love to be able to get a “W” over their former coach.

However, the result of tonight’s game could have bigger ramifications than just a boost in team morale for either side.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The two teams are currently tied in the Sun Belt standings, and the winner should have the inside track to a Sun Belt title and a trip to New Orleans in December.

As big as that is, you have to wonder if tonight’s game will not have a huge impact on the future landscape of the Sun Belt.

Troy has been the class of the Sun Belt since 2006, when it won its first-ever Sun Belt title. As we all know, the Trojans have won three straight since then.

But, remember that the magical season of 2006 was the first season that the Trojans had Franklin at the helm of the offense.

The offense was anemic in 2005, averaging just 307.5 yards per game, earning the Trojans the distinction of being the seventh best offense in the Sun Belt and the 111th best offense in Division I football.

Clearly, things had to change in Troy, and change they did.

Head coach Larry Blakeney brought in Franklin to run Troy’s offensive attack.

The hire has proven to be one of the most important in Troy history.

Under Franklin’s direction, the Troy offense improved in every major statistical category, including finishing second in the Sun Belt in total offense and tying for first in the conference in scoring offense.

The offensive improvement only continued in 2007, as Troy finished 14th in the nation in total offense. The Trojans also led the Sun Belt in scoring offense at 34 points per game.

Following Franklin’s departure, the offense has continued to put up big numbers under former Franklin pupil Neal Brown’s direction.

However, Franklin has returned to the Sun Belt, and is undoubtedly looking to help MTSU achieve the same success that Troy has in recent years.

There are some parallels between the Troy offense that Franklin inherited in 2006 and the Blue Raider team he joined this season.

Both teams finished in the bottom third of the conference in total offense and scoring offense prior to Franklin’s arrival. Both teams also finished with 3-4 Sun Belt records prior to Franklin’s arrival.

The Blue Raider offense has certainly taken steps forward under Franklin’s tutelage, much as the Trojan offense did.

Franklin has helped to take MTSU to the brink of excellence. The only thing that stands between the Blue Raiders and perennial Sun Belt powerhouse status is Troy.

With MTSU striving to become a perennial conference power, it’s almost fitting that the Blue Raiders’ path to that status comes through Troy, the monster that Franklin helped to create.

So, tonight, will Franklin put the Sun Belt on notice? Could it be a changing of the guard?

Or, will the story remain the same? Can the Trojans show not only the conference, but also the entire nation, that Troy still runs the Belt?

The Trojans claim they have moved past Franklin and his departure. Tonight is their opportunity to prove it.