FCS football, its where the OVC is and its where all but one team this week play against this week. This week we see how the conference stacks up against other teams vying for a win for their postseason resume. SEMO has a bye week, which they desperately need due to injuries, but other than the Redhawks, eight games are on the gridiron.
Austin Peay at Chattanooga (5 p.m. CDT)
After two weeks of getting their teeth kicked in by FBS opponents, Austin Peay heads across the state of Tennessee to take on a preseason top-25 FCS team, Chattanooga. It will be our first, and only look at the Governors against an FCS non-conference opponent.
Andrew Spivey will begin the game under center for the Governors, presumably for good, named the starter after Austin Peay’s Week 2 loss to Vanderbilt. His performance this week will go a long way in determining if he’ll be able to keep the job.
The biggest question about the Governors: will they be able to move the football. Chattanooga is a defensive-minded team, and a good performance from the Austin Peay offense will be a great sign as we near conference play.
UT Martin knocked the Mocs out of the top-25 in Week 1, 31-21.
Stat of the Day: Today is the fifth time Austin Peay is playing an opponent from the Southern Conference. The Govs are 1-3 with their only win coming against Samford when they were an OVC member.
#21 Coastal Carolina at #25 Eastern Kentucky (5 p.m. CDT)
Coming off a loss to No. 7 Louisville, the Colonels will look to rebound as they play host to the first of two FCS ranked vs ranked games.
Eastern Kentucky couldn’t get their offense rolling racking up just over 200 yards of offense but what else do you expect against Louisville. The Colonels love to run the ball and Coastal Carolina is currently allowing just over 200 yards a game on the ground. If EKU can establish a run game and keep the clock rolling it should play favorably into the Colonels favor.
Coastal Carolina are the Chanticleers. So what is an Chanticleer? Here is the definition from Coastal Carolina:
A Chanticleer is a rooster who rules the barnyard with cunning and wit. His competitiveness
never wanes as he battles to the end, using his brains to come out on top every time.
I couldn’t possibly preview this game without showing you that valuable information.
On the gridiron the Chanticleers are as balanced of an offense as you will see. Quarterback Alex Ross hasn’t been all that great, three interceptions and two touchdowns, so if the Colonels can force him to pass the ball there could be the chance for a takeaway or two.
Coastal Carolina has played two gritty games already this year winning by a touchdown in each game. This is only the second time the two teams have played each other but just like last year they are both ranked. The Chanticleers are 5-10 when facing other ranked opponents, and just 2-6 when on the road.
Stat of the Day: The Colonels are 6-8 against ranked FCS opponents in the six years under Dean Hood.
Tennessee Tech at Hampton (5 p.m. CDT)
The Golden Eagles are another OVC team we’ve yet to get a true look at, and while Tennessee Tech is finally taking on an FCS opponent, Hampton isn’t exactly the cream of the crop: just 3-7 a year ago, and 0-2 this year averaging 8 points a game through two weeks. This is a return game from last season, which saw the Golden Eagles win a 41-31 shootout.
There’s really no telling what TTU is capable of at this point: 63 points against Cumberland tells us as little as last week’s 48-point crushing against Wisconsin. Darian Stone has been solid if unremarkable at quarterback in two starts this year, as TTU has relied on their rushing attack through the first two weeks. What we have seen is Stone is somewhat of a rushing threat, and could give the Golden Eagle offense an added dimension.
Or it might not. Again, we just don’t know what to think about this TTU team. I’m not certain how much a win against a struggling Pirates squad tells us, either. A loss, on the other hand, tells us that last year might not have been a fluke.
Stat of the Day: This is the third time in program history that the Golden Eagles will play in Virginia. Their last visit was in 2004 against Virginia Military Institute.
Missouri State at Murray State (6 p.m. CDT)
The preseason games have officially ended for Murray State, Head Coach Chris Hatcher said after the Racers destroyed their NAIA opponent last week. We haven’t seen what this team really is yet, who they are. This week that all changes as Murray State takes on a Missouri State, who were upset by Northwestern State in week one and then almost made a comeback at Iowa last weekend.
Offensively the Racers looked great against Campbellsville but after their opening drive, that was set up by a touchdown, the offense stalled out for three drives. Maybe it was just the team overlooking their opponent. The playbook of the Racers has been kept closed as well. The Racers have under 500 yards passing this year and it could be for multiple reasons. The teams they played, the fact Maikhail Miller is a duel threat, and the running backs being a strength.
Defensively the Racers needed last week to build up morale. Turnovers are expected when you play a lower division team and forcing four turnovers makes a team feel a lot better.
Missouri State hasn’t had much success at all, having lost their last 10 non conference games. The offense only averages 14 first downs a game, and just over 250 yards. There is a reason why Murray State owns a 7-1 advantage in this series.
Stat of the Day: The Racers broke their modern scoring record last week; the previous record was set against Missouri State in 2010 when they erupted for 72 points.
#16 Illinois State at #9 Eastern Illinois (6 p.m. CDT)
A rivalry that puts friendships on hold for the night. That’s what the Mid-America Classic means to both programs as they meet up for the 102nd time.
Coach Dino Babers explained the rivalry when asked by an Illinois State reporter if he saw the game as an intense rivalry. “Their head coach and I have known each other since 1987, best of friends, our wives know each other. We’ve held each other’s kids. Before the game it’s basically good luck and walk back to your teams.”
Last year this game was defense optional as it went to double overtime with Illinois State coming out with the 54-51 victory. Things haven’t changed much since these two last met.
Eastern Illinois offense showed their full strength last weekend so we don’t need to discuss that again. It is worth mentioning that Erik Lora needs only three receptions to become the all-time OVC leader in career receptions.
The defense will have to face a passing attack that was lit up for 473 passing yards and allowed five touchdowns. The Panthers are coming off a game that saw the defense allow four touchdowns through the air to a balanced offense.
Illinois State has been preparing for this game, not because of the rivalry, but their schedule. The team has had two weeks to game plan for Dino Babers and his offense. Last year a young Jimmy Garoppolo threw for almost 400 yards, but had three interceptions and only two touchdowns. Two weeks of game planning could we see this happen again?
Stat of the Day: Illinois State leads the Mid-America Classic 52-40-9 but a road team hasn’t won since Eastern Illinois in 2008.
#7 Central Arkansas at UT Martin (6 p.m. CDT)
Head Coach Jason Simpson is probably excited that his team is 1-1 on the season if you just listened to him talk about his quarterback play in the Skyhawks first two games.
“Like I’ve told them, if they don’t take care of the ball this week, we’ll be making some changes and get the guy in there that values the football.”
Tough words for a head coach who is preparing for a nationally ranked opponent to visit their home turf today. We did claim Dylan Favre the future of UT Martin on the fact that the offense moves with him and it doesn’t with Jarod Neal. Favre has orchestrated four scoring drives this year, while Neal has three drives. Time is running out for the Skyhawks to make a decision for this season, can’t run two different offenses for the whole season.
Luckily the ground game has been spot on for the Skyhawks to keep the team afloat but this weekend the gameplan might have to change. The way to beat Central Arkansas is through the air, allowing 328 yards a game. On the ground, they are allowing just 85 yards a game. So this game is a prep game for Eastern Kentucky.
Unlike Eastern Kentucky, Central Arkansas is a passing team. Quarterback Wynrick Smothers has thrown for 547 yards in the Panthers first two games and is a dual threat that the Skyhawks want to neutralize. This will be the test for the Skyhawks secondary as the conference portion draws closer.
A win for the Skyhawks would be huge, not only to rebound from a blowout at Boise State, but they would have two wins against ranked FCS programs. That would be huge come playoff time as the Skyhawks try to present a reason for an at-large selection.
Stat of the Day: The Skyhawks are 6-1 in home openers under Simpson, having scored an average 41 points a game.
Tennessee State vs Jackson State (South Heritage Classic in Memphis) (6 p.m. CDT)
Michael German is back under cent…What was that? He’s the backup? Really?
German’s two game suspension is up, but he’ll start this game on the bench behind freshman Ronald Butler. It’s not an additional punishment according to head coach Rod Reed, it’s just giving German, who missed all of spring practice and obviously hasn’t played in a game this year, time to get back in rhythm with his team, which as we all know happens best when a player isn’t playing with his receivers.
Reed made it sound as if the job is Butler’s until he beings playing badly, whether that be the first quarter or Week 7. Given the tepid playcalling in the first two weeks for the freshman, I’d be surprised if German doesn’t make his way into the game this week, and it named the starter before OVC play begins, if not as soon as next week.
North Alabama at Jacksonville State (7 p.m. CDT)
The Gamecocks provide us our only non-FCS game this weekend as they play host to Division II North Alabama. Strangely enough the Gamecocks are facing the man that could have been their head coach if JSU hadn’t selected Bill Clark.
As usual, this preview will be a short one, but Jacksonville State has a running game, four players going over 100 yards could very well happen again if the Gamecocks choose to. Eli Jenkins will probably get the start if Clark sticks with his starting the player with the hot hand, and Jenkins is that.
The battle for better running back favors Troymaine Pope, who leads the team with 220 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.. Don’t overlook DeMarcus James who is just behind Pope at 155 yards.
The Gamecocks are an adjustment team. No points scored in the opening quarter yet but after halftime they have scored 48 of their 72 points. This might do for now but coach Clark and his staff can’t play with fire for too long. Getting behind to the upper teams in the conference could doom this team.
Stat of the Day: The two teams renew a rivalry that dominated Division II. JSU leads the overall series 23-18-3 with North Alabama the victor in 2003.