Middle Tennessee basketball coach Kermit Davis hopes his school's football team can further establish the Blue Raiders as a "national brand" this week.
All it will take is another win against the Minnesota Gophers.
Davis coached Middle Tennessee to an upset over Richard Pitino's Gophers in the NCAA basketball tournament first round in March.
He's been preaching to his players about believing Middle Tennessee can become a national power as a mid-major. Wins against Big Ten teams like Minnesota and the previous year Michigan State in the Big Dance bring more attention to the Blue Raiders.
But just last week, Middle Tennessee upset Syracuse from the ACC in football. Now arguably the Conference USA's top program in two major sports is looking to prove this Saturday that it should be on the national radar in both.
"We're not there yet," Davis said this week. "But you can only create a national brand if you beat national teams. Minnesota obviously has a national brand in the Big Ten and great fan base. All those things, whether it's men's basketball or football, those games are important to all of us."
Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill, head coach Rick's son, totaled 336 yards and three touchdowns of total offense in a 30-23 win at Syracuse last Saturday.
"I think it helps," Stockstill said about MTSU making a name for itself. "These are the games you have to win to put the program on the map. ... We've done it before with Missouri last year and now Syracuse, and it's sweet so we'll enjoy it. But that's our standard here, we want to win those big time Power Five games and that's what we have to do to put our program on the map.
"Like coach Kermit Davis says, we want to create a national brand here and that's what we're trying to do."
Davis tweeted out congratulations to the football team after the Syracuse win and used the hashtag #nationalbrand.
When Davis first started coaching at Middle Tennessee 16 years ago, he'd wear Blue Raiders gear out recruiting and people would ask if his school was in Division II.
But when the 35-year veteran coach does the same thing now recruiting, MTSU gets instant recognition because of his NCAA tournament wins. And basketball prospects this week were also congratulating him for the football team's victory against Syracuse.
"They used to have no idea what league we were in," Davis said. "It's been my battle cry with our players, 'Are you convinced that you guys are national players and you belong in national games?' Now every player in my locker room says, 'Yes.' It's night and day. We can't go to a place now where a kid hasn't seen us play. They know who we are."