As the calendar’s switch to November, the chase for the OVC football title will come down to the final weeks. While a few tiebreakers have been decided, there is still one game that could be for the entire title. Luckily for us, this game is schedule for the final week of the season. Because of this we are left to search at look at every key detail of the remaining schedule, so we here at OVCBall have decided to pull the schedule and scenarios for you.
TENNESSEE MARTIN 6-2 (4-1)
Remaining schedule: 11/3 vs Jacksonville State, 11/10 @ Tennessee Tech, 11/17 vs Tennessee State
Tiebreakers: Own tiebreaker over Eastern Illinois (51-37 win at home on October 6) Lose tiebreaker to Eastern Kentucky (28-16 loss at home on September 29)
Analysis: The good news is that the Skyhawks control their own destiny for the OVC Football championship, just win the final three games, and the title is theirs. Boasting the most difficult remaining schedule of the top three, the Skyhawks host the games that will help them in the tiebreaker scenarios. Jacksonville State is clinging to life support for its title chances and are coming into Martin having won four of its last five. If the Skyhawks get past the Gamecocks, they will travel the following weekend to Cookeville, where they will be the senior day opponent. Tennessee Tech, I believe, has a victory in them and their offense has the potential to pull off an upset, whether it be this game or the week before. Finally they host Tennessee State at home on senior day which if both teams win out would be for the conference title. I believe that the Skyhawk defense is very capable of winning the title, its the offense that does concern me but if they can control the tempo, they have a great chance of winning the title.
EASTERN ILLINOIS 5-3 (4-1)
Remaining schedule: 11/3 @ Tennessee Tech, 11/10 vs Southeast Missouri, 11/17 @ Central Arkansas
Tiebreakers: Lose tiebreaker to UT Martin (51-37 loss on road on October 6) Own tiebreakers over Eastern Kentucky (24-7 win at Eastern KY on October 27) and Jacksonville State (31-28 win at home on October 13)
Analysis: The Panthers have easiest conference schedule remaining which is good for the most explosive offense in the Ohio Valley Conference. What is concerning however is the secondary that has led to multiple shootouts late in the game. Last weekend the defense stepped up, but they did have have the advantage of two full weeks studying the Eastern Kentucky offense, and it paid off for the Panthers. First up is a trip to Cookeville to face the Golden Eagles, who have been anything but golden. As I said in the UT Martin analysis, Tennessee Tech is not a team to be overlooked just based on their record. They are just like the Panthers boasting a great offense and a sub par at best defense. Good news for the Panthers is that Tennessee Tech has become a running team due to an injured Tre Lamb. After that game that will be a close one, the team will face Southeast Missouri who QB play has been very interesting to say the least. Scott Lathrop has almost as many rushing yards (738) as he does passing (852). However I expect the Panthers to come away with the victory. If the Panthers want the OVC title they will need to win the final two games then root for Tennessee State to beat UT Martin to clinch a share of the title or have both teams fall for sole possession. A loss for the Panthers ends their title chances however.
TENNESSEE STATE 8-1 (4-1)
Remaining schedule: 11/3 @ Murray State, 11/10 bye week, 11/17 @ UT-Martin
Tiebreakers: Own tiebreakers over Eastern Kentucky (23-20 win at home on October 6) Lose tiebreaker to Jacksonville State (31-28 OT loss at Jacksonville State on October 20)
Analysis: Tennessee State is a very “clutch” team as Catlin said and they truly are. That being said they haven’t been tested on the road and their only “test” on the road was their only loss of the season. We will find out what this team is made of as they finish the regular season on the road for the final two games. First the travel to Murray, which plays well for the Tigers. The Racers were ran all over by the Gamecocks and we all know about the secondary issues that the Racers have. A sign of concern however is not the Racers offense that can be a very streaky team, when they score they score in bunches, but how healthy is the Tiger secondary. Leading the nation in interceptions is Stephen Godbolt III (6 INT) but he sustained a concussion last weekend against Tennessee Tech. If he is healthy then the Racers won’t be able to throw to their favorite target in Walter Powell nearly as much as they prefer. That being said the Tigers should prevail against the Racers. After the game the Tigers get a week to focus on the Skyhawks in the “championship game”. Personally I really hope it comes down to a one game winner take all, as I will be making the journey to Martin. If the Tigers can control the game and put up about 28 points on the Skyhawks (which is a very tall task for anyone) then the title will be theirs. If not, then as I like to say buckle up because it might come down to the final drive. It would be the top two minute offense in the conference versus the top defense in the conference. My heart is pounding just thinking about it. Just like the other teams above, win just win and the title is yours.