Going on 4th is our new look at the top 4 storylines heading into each week of the college football season.
The hunt for the OVC crown began in earnest last week, but this week is where things really begin to heat up.
1st Down: Can Garoppolo continue his record pace?
Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is getting plenty of praise from national media in the past week, even being compared to Joe Flacco, but what’s truly interesting is the pace he’s on this year. Based on the first four games, the Panthers signal caller is on pace for 5,193 passing yards and 60 touchdowns, which would shatter school records set by notable alumni Tony Romo and Sean Payton and break some conference records as well. He’s done it against great competition as well, including two FBS opposition, and the schedule sets up rather favorable, with EIU hosting most of their major opposition in conference.
The one question I do have, though, is how aggressive will head coach Dino Babers be against conference competition. Babers rolled the dice quite often in non-conference play, which helped Garoppollo’s numbers somewhat. Now that wins truly do matter, will Babers bring out the punt unit a little more often?
2nd Down: Is EKU a contender, or another team in the middle of the pack?
On the other side of the field from the Panthers this week is the team picked in the preseason to finish second: Eastern Kentucky. They’ve struggled a bit in their non-conference slate, and have fallen in our Power Rankings as a result. But like most of the OVC, they’re 0-0, and a win this week will help us quickly forget their disappointing start, not to mention giving them a huge jump on winning the conference title.
3rd Down: Speaking of contenders, what about UT Martin?
The opinions about the Skyhawks are all over the place: We think highly of them here, but the FCS coaches couldn’t be bothered for the second week in a row to put them in the top-25, despite two wins over ranked teams. Even their coach, Jason Simpson, has expressed some concern about his quarterback play, so far as to refuse to name a starter. They travel to a Southeast Missouri team that looked stronger last week, throwing the ball much more often than we’re used to. A big win would ease a few of these fears moving forward.
4th Down: So, are we just writing off 4-0 Jacksonville State, then?
No. Not yet. They host Murray State this weekend, which in all truthfulness is the biggest challenge, at least for their defense, that the Gamecocks have faced all season. Max Shortell had a great game last weekend, and will likely need another, as the Racers and their patented “Hatch Attack” are almost certain to put points up on the board. Of course the Racers defense is porous, and should allow plenty of opportunities for the Gamecocks to score points as well. This week should give us a better view of just how solid those four non-conference wins really were.