The first weekend of college football is upon fans everywhere as Thursday was just our appetizer in our hunger for football. On the playlist today is OVC versus the FBS, with a game that could earn the conference some airtime for pulling the upset. The other game is the reveal game for us, finally we get to see the team in action, because its required.
Jacksonville State at Alabama State (5 p.m. CDT)
Bill Clark and his Gamecocks can’t hide behind tarp covered fences anymore as they make the two and half hour drive south to face SWAC East Division favorite Alabama State.
Clark has installed up tempo offense, but no one knows what it looks like, so will they run the ball with their dynamic duo of DeMarcus James and Troymaine Pope or will the team join the air attack that has become the OVC.
Taking control of the reigns for the Gamecocks is junior/redshirt freshman Max Shortell/Eli Jenkins/Kyle West and they it is their job to win. Coaching staff knows, the players know, but media and more importantly Alabama State don’t know who to prepare for. My predicition is the throwing Shortell gets the first series unless Clark wants to establish the run, then expect Jenkins.
Alabama State had five players on Preseason All-SWAC first team and their newest weapon is a name SEC fans have heard before, former Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell. Crowell is out to prove that he has the skills to become an NFL running back and I’m willing to bet on the Hornet’s home opener he will get numerous touches.
Stat of the Day: Bill Clark is looking to become only the third JSU coach to win his Gamecock debut. The others were Charley Pell in 1969, and Jim Fuller in 1974.
Austin Peay at Tennessee (5 p.m. CDT)
The rebuilding of the Austin Peay football program starts with instate power Tennessee and if you remember what Kirby Cannon told us at OVC Media Day, they are hoping to hang around for the majority of the game, put the pressure on the Vols and then score 10 points in the final minutes to pull the upset. Excellent game plan right?
Realistically its all about evaluating the talent that the Govs have this season and seeing how the offense and defense are coming along. Andrew Spivey is the starter and you know all about the stats he produced in JUCO because we seem to mention it every time we say his name. He will be splitting reps with Jacob Sexton as the coaching staff is using the non conference portion of the schedule to establish a foundation for OVC play.
On the defense side of the ball, this is the experienced side of the ball for the Govs and will be their strength this year. Nine starters are back for the Govs, but not all are listed as starters for todays game. Sure they wish they had both Earnest Smith and Iosua Siliva on the defensive line, expect big things from Siliva.
Stat of the Day: The Governors enter today’s contest having lost their last 16 road games. Their last win was at Tennessee State in 2010.
Murray State at Missouri (6 p.m. CDT)
Chris Hatcher and his Racers head west to Columbia, Missouri to take on Missouri in a game that could have both teams scoring lots of points, maybe.
Maikhail Miller takes over for a redheaded quarterback and he does have All-American Walter Powell on the outside as a target. The key for the Racers when taking on the Tigers will be the passing game, and how well the offensive line for Murray State can protect for Miller. Luckily Miller is a dual threat and can extend plays with his feet and take on a secondary that struggled last year allowing 240 yards and we are sure Hatch Attack will face it head on.
Another weapon of the offense is the running game but generally in FCS vs FBS games only way the backs are productive is catching the ball instead of running it. Racers are replacing the right side of their offensive line so the ground game might be hard to come by.
Chris Hatcher calls his secondary the team’s strength for this season. Yes, he said yet and has said it multiple times. This is a new defense compared to the one just a year ago that allowed over 300 yards a game through the air. The defense is a 3-4 and instead of just man to man, the Racers have added zone to give extra protection over the top. This will be needed taking on Missouri’s biggest weapon, 6’6 sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham who is expected to explode this year and live up to his #1 billing when he was a high school recruit.
Stat of the Day: Murray State for the fifth straight season will wear a new helmet, Navy this year after donning gold variations the past two seasons.
Eastern Illinois at San Diego State ( 7 p.m. CDT)
If a FCS vs. FBS upset is going to happen, this could be the one as Eastern Illinois enters year two of the Dino Babers system.
Their main weapons we all know, Jimmy Garoppolo throws to Erik Lora (that only happened 136 times last year) but the team must incorporate new weapons having lost the next five favorite targets of Garoppolo from last season. Jeff LePak transfers in from Baylor thanks to his ties to Babers and Adam Drake is lined up across from Lora giving him 1-on-1 opportunities.
Now why is there a chance for this upset to happen? The Aztecs can be beat through the air, allowing 235 yards through the air last year but do return nine starters but its the three new starters that give EIU the slight edge. It will be the experienced passing offense taking on two new corners making their first start for the Aztecs.
Now how does this upset not happen? Well lets flip back to how EIU lost their last game of the season last year, it was the ground game. San Diego State was 20th in the nation last year average 220 yards on the ground and what has been mentioned before the trenches is generally were FBS dominance is seen.
Stat of the Day: The Panthers own a streak of 112 games without being shutout. Their last shutout was against Eastern Kentucky in 2003.