The Skyhawks enter today's game ranked 10th in the nation.
Southeast Missouri State will try to disrupt Tennessee-Martin's storybook football season tonight.
And in the process, the Redhawks will attempt to move closer to a rare winning campaign.
Those are the major plot lines surrounding the 6 p.m. Ohio Valley Conference game at Houck Stadium.
UTM (7-1, 4-0) is tied for first place in the OVC, with Tennessee State. Never before had the Skyhawks won their first four OVC games.
But this has been a season full of firsts for the Skyhawks, who prior to last year had ranked among the nation's worst Division I-AA teams for the better part of a decade.
UTM began its climb from the depths in 2005 by going 6-5. That ended a string of 11 consecutive losing seasons for the Skyhawks, who went winless in OVC play from 1997 through 2002 and posted just one league victory in both 2003 and 2004.
The Skyhawks' seven wins is already their most in a season on the Division I-AA level and their most since 1988.
And never before this season had UTM been nationally ranked in Division I-AA. They are currently No. 10 after seven consecutive victories, including last week's 15-9 triumph over defending OVC champion Eastern Illinois.
"They are really on a great run," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said.
The Skyhawks have continued their surge this season despite having a new coach, as Jason Simpson took over following Matt Griffin's departure for fellow OVC member Murray State.
Simpson inherited a team that featured plenty of returning starters and he has added some key newcomers to help get the Skyhawks where they currently are.
"We felt like going into this year that we'd have an opportunity to win some games, but there is such a fine line in this conference between winning and losing," Simpson said. "You've got to be lucky and coach well and play well ... right now things are going our way."
Southeast (4-4, 2-3) also is trying for a breakthrough season of sorts under a first-year coach of its own.
Samuel took over a squad coming off a 2-9 campaign. The Redhawks have already doubled their victory total from last year and are gunning for just the program's third winning record since it joined Division I-AA in 1991.
Southeast went 8-4 in 2002 and 7-5 in 1994. This year's group is trying to join that exclusive club.
"That would be great for this team, especially the seniors," Samuel said.
Samuel knows just how difficult a task it will be to stop UTM's charge -- and particularly how tough it will be to penetrate the Skyhawks' stingy defense.
The Skyhawks lead the league in all four major statistical defensive categories, and they also rank in the top 10 nationally in those four departments.
UTM is sixth in passing defense (allowing 130.2 yards per game), seventh in rushing defense (96.6 yards per game), second in total defense (226.9 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (11.6 points per game.
The Skyhawks have held three opponents under 200 yards, including limiting Eastern Illinois' vaunted offense to just 193 yards last week.
UTM also has excelled in most special teams areas, including leading the OVC in punt returns (14.5-yard average).
"That's definitely their strength," Samuel said of UTM's defense. "The whole thing is set to their defense and kicking game."
Said Simpson: "We knew defense was going to be the strength of our team. Statistically, whether we knew we would be this good, I don't know. But we knew we would structure our offense to complement our defense."
While the Skyhawks don't have an overwhelming offense -- they have averaged 21 points in their four conference victories -- they appear to have adjusted well on that side of the ball after losing four-year starting quarterback Brady Wahlberg to graduation last year.
UTM has relied on a two-quarterback system, with redshirt freshman Greg Preston and true freshman Dexter Anoka splitting time fairly evenly.
Preston and Anoka have combined to pass for 919 yards, with seven touchdowns and four interceptions while completing about 53 percent.
Anoka also is a dangerous runner, having gained 173 yards while averaging 10.8 yards per rush.
Preston went the whole way last week against Eastern Illinois, while Anoka saw the bulk of the action during the previous game at Samford.
"It was just in that particular game, I thought he [Preston] gave us the best chance for our game plan, and I just thought the week before Dexter gave us the best chance," Simpson said.
The Skyhawks' ground game is spearheaded by junior Don Chapman, who despite being hampered early in the season by an ankle injury is closing in on his third straight 1,000-yard season.
Chapman, who rushed for 1,396 yards last year and 1,084 as a freshman, has 702 so far this season while averaging five yards per carry.