It’s finally here, the helmets are painted, the teams have on their new uniforms, preseason expectations officially become guesses tonight as four OVC schools open football action. Right now coaches are making their final preparations, it’s time for pregame and here’s what we are watching.
Robert Morris at #19 Eastern Kentucky (6 p.m. EDT)
Colonials at Colonels, I love this mascot matchup and I’m sure I will be making corrections when referring to one of them. Just like the similar team names, both team’s style are grind it out and let the defense hold on while the offense put up the points the defense needs to win the game.
Eastern Kentucky likes to run the ball, they have improved their ground game each of the last four years and usually have a guy that “is the guy”. With Matt Denham gone, Jared Sanders steps into the role as the workhorse but he won’t be alone as the running back position is plentiful for the Colonels.
The Colonels typically open the season on the road against a FBS opponent, which is a major reason that EKU has lost their last 12 season openers but things change as the team opens at Roy Kidd Stadium for the first time in eight years.
Robert Morris last season at 4-7 (3-5) in the Northeast Conference and was chosen fourth in the preseason NEC poll. The Colonials return 14 starters and are led are a defensive minded team led by sophomore Marcelis Branch who led the NEC as a freshmen in forced turnovers. Another player on the defensive side is linebacker Mike Cook who led Robert Morris with 88 tackles and got at least six tackles in every game last year except one. Offensively the Colonials are balanced with a slight preference to run the ball. Robert Morris does return leading rusher Evan Taylor who averaged just 77 yards per game last season.At the quarterback position expect Penn State transfer Paul Jones to take the snaps under center.
Fact of the day: Eastern Kentucky is playing a NEC team for the first time tonight.
UT Martin at #25 Chattanooga (6:30 p.m. CDT)
Just like last year, UT Martin will be looking to pull an upset to open the season as the Skyhawks go east to take on Chattanooga who are ranked 25th in the FCS Coaches Poll.
The Skyhawks this offseason has been about talent acquisition landing transfers Kevin Anderson, Dylan Favre and Abou Toure and on the depth chart its only the receiver Anderson expected to start but I don’t see that for long as all three can expect playing time tonight.
The quarterback battle for UT Martin continues into tonight’s game even though everyone that has seen the scrimmages, expected sophomore Jarod Neal to be named starter and he will take the first snaps for the Skyhawks. Neal is just like Derek Carr when he started for the Skyhawks and with weapons just like last year’s squad, he seems the ideal fit. Favre on the other hand is a running QB and the Skyhawks have installed a QB option that was impressive with Favre and D.J. McNeil but injuries could stall Favre’s chances at the starting spot and he hasn’t shown a great passing ability.
The Mocs return 10 offensive and 10 defensive starters and are led by a defense that finished last year 18th in the nation allowing just over 20 points per game. On the defense you will hear the name Wes Dothard numerous times, who is a preseason Buck Buchanan Award watcher and led the 94 tackles and is a two-time-All-American. Offensively they are led by preseason 2nd team SoCon QB Jacob Huesman who started nine games for the Mocs and throwing for 1700 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Fact of the day: Head Coach Jason Simpson returns to Chattanooga for the first time since he left the Mocs. He served as their offensive coordinator from 2003-2005.
Southeast Missouri at Southeastern Louisiana (7 p.m. CDT)
Written by: Sammy Sava
The 2013-2014 College Football season officially gets underway as Southeast Missouri State takes on Southeastern Louisiana. This is the first time ever that these two teams have met, however they will meet again at Southeast Missouri next season, part of a home and home series.
Southeast Missouri head coach Tony Samuel enters his eighth season as head coach at Southeast. Samuel (28-51 career at Southeast and 17-38 in the OVC) has a 2010 OVC Championship under his belt. The Redhawks are 3-6 in season openers with Samuel at the helm.
Ohio University transfer Kyle Snyder was named the starting quarterback last Wednesday by Samuel. Snyder missed all of last season with a torn ACL while backup Scott Lathrop won the OVC Freshmen of the year last season.
The Redhawks were picked eighth in the OVC Preseason Poll this year back on July 22nd at OVC Media Day. Southeast finished with a 3-6 record last season, 2-6 in the OVC, and 1-5 on the road.
This season for Southeast is highlighted by trips to Oxford against SEC opponent Ole Miss in Week 2 and to Busch Stadium in Week 4 against regional Missouri Valley Conference rival Southern Illinois.
Fact of the day: Today’s game is the 8th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans, which is an hour away from where tonight’s game is taking place.
Cumberland at Tennessee Tech (7 p.m. CDT)
Normally we don’t like to spend time on games against low tier teams and so expect this to be a one sided preview. Tennessee Tech starts the year healthy, and it has been awhile since we have been able to say that.
After a quarterback battle, if you want to call it that, Darian Stone will keep on starting just like it was the end of season. Stone however should be much better and he has a pretty easy first opponent because next weekend its at Wisconsin and their “Jump Around” tradition.
Expect an easier win compared to last season’s 45-21 result as the Eagles will showcase both their ground game with Bud Golden and their usual passing attack that is loaded with weapons such as Cody Matthews and Zack Ziegler.
Fact of the day: Cumberland leads the series 7-6-1, Tech has won the last three however.