The second week of football is upon us and this week doesn’t really give us games that we don’t know the outcome. We are supposed to withhold giving results and last week the conference did pull an upset of an FBS opponent. Can it happen, lets find out.
#21 Eastern Kentucky at #8 Louisville (11:00 a.m. CDT)
“I think everyone in America watched the Louisville/Ohio game so it’s not secret the challenge that lies before us,” head coach Dean Hood said speaking about their in-state opponent this week. The challenge for the Colonels is simple but hard to do, minimize what QB Teddy Bridgewater does. Hood called him one of the best quarterbacks he has had to defend a list that includes Phillip Rivers and Daunte Culpepper.
For the Colonels it is a simple decision to make; blitz and try to get to the Heisman contender in the backfield or drop back into coverage and try to minimize the big plays. EKU held Robert Morris last week to 232 yards, only 55 on the ground so the defense has the talent to contain teams.
Another weapon that could help the Colonels is their offense that will try to establish a running game and shorten the possession for the Cardinals. The Colonels have four running backs but not one guy that can do it all, but each has their role and something unique and makes game planning for each a little more difficult. The team did rush for 207 yards last week but this week breaking 150 yards would be a win.
“Most good running backs get better with more carries as the game goes along,” Hood said. Eventually expect Eastern Kentucky to cut the list shorter but not this week.
If the ground game stalls out, at least the Colonels have Jared McClain. If it wasn’t for EIU upsetting an FBS team, McClain would have been the Player of the Week as the junior passed for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 44 yards and another two touchdowns on the ground. This week McClain will see an FBS defense, a good one, so this week could tell us a lot about the Colonel signal caller.
Stat of the Day: Eastern Kentucky’s last win over an FBS opponent was Louisville in 1985. The Colonels won the game 45-21.
Tennessee Tech at #21 Wisconsin (11:00 a.m. CDT)
Sigh. More FCS versus FBS madness. Yes, eight won last week, including Eastern Illinois. But count me among the people who feel that was more of an aberration than some new normal.
And as is the normal, Tennessee Tech tries to make their annual money game sound somehow noble: from their game preview:
“Saturday’s 11 a.m. contest in venerable Camp Randall Stadium will mark the 17th consecutive year that the Golden Eagles, a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), will step up a classification to challenge a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).”
…becuase I’m certain you would “step up a classification,” if a six-figure paycheck wasn’t involved.
Okay, I’m done ranting about money games. For now. I reserve the right to continue doing so next week.
It’s hard to have any kind of read on the Golden Eagles, and this week likely won’t be especially helpful either. TTU took on NAIA Cumberland last week, winning in a lopsided 63-7 affair. It featured a 93-yard punt return, 323 yards of rushing, holding Cumberland below 200 yards of total offense. Basically, all the things they hope don’t happen to them this week.
Wisconsin blitzed UMass in their season opener, a team you could argue is FBS in name only, behind 393 yards rushing. Ouchie.
Stat of the Day: This is the second straight week the Golden Eagles are taking on a coach in his first season with the program.
Tennessee State at Florida A&M (1:00 p.m. CDT)
Offense, optional. Florida A&M might have lit up the scoreboard, relatively, in their opening week, but only gained 310 offensive yards. Tennessee State: a cool 248. Ooh boy.
TSU quarterback Michael German will sit out his second, and presumably final game of the season, meaning Ronald Butler will get another start behind center. If last week was any indication, expect more conservative playcalling, and a whole lot of runs up the middle. Exciting football, in other words.
The especially concerning part isn’t the lack of yards: that’s fairly expected when you’ve got a young quarterback. But three drives made it to the red zone, and all three for the Tigers ended in a field goal. When you get deep, you expect your running game to generate touchdowns. At least one. At some point. German will provide more of a threat in the backfield, and could loosen up defenses when he returns next week, but when you’re near the end zone, eight-man fronts are not an excuse.
That being said, Butler was fairly solid. He made the most out of the few drop-back opportunites he got, and while there were a few dump-down passes, he finished 13-21, and most importantly didn’t turn over the ball.
For you band enthusiats, there’s good news; Florida’s A&M band will be on the field for halftime. Not that Tennessee State’s is all that shabby, mind you.
As for their football team, the Rattlers defense was the real star of their opener. Mississippi Valley State was held to just 224 yards, and 9-26 passing between two equally ineffective quarterbacks, throwing three picks against the Rattlers defense. Their offense, as mentioned above, isn’t especially scary on the ground or in the air, but won the turnover battle, and somehow survived 15 penalties for 160 yards, including an almost incomprehensible four delay of game penalties.
Stat of the Day: TSU is 26-25-1 all-time against Florida A&M.
UT Martin at Boise State (2:00 p.m. CDT)
The Skyhawks built a difficult schedule this season and have gotten past their first hurdle, upsetting a ranked opponent on the road. Could the Skyhawks do it again this time on the famous blue turf? Maybe not but the team could very well make it a game longer than any of the others in the conference this week.
The quarterback situation is still the same as it has been, no named starter but the coaching staff has to decide quickly because how different the top two quarterbacks are. Jarod Neal is a gunslinger and will hand the ball off to a running back for the ground game. Dylan Favre wants to be a part of the ground game and that is where his strength is along with play action passes. This game against an FBS opponent could play very well for Favre as the biggest difference between FCS and FBS is in the trenches, so mobility helps.
The ground game was the star for UTM and expect that to be their calling card again this week. D.J. McNeil has the ability to create his own yards and Boise State is coming off a defeat in which they allowed over 250 yards rushing. This is perfect at the Skyhawks rushed for almost 300 yards.
The Broncos this year are doing something new, running the pistol because the offense had gotten to difficult for players not named Kellen Moore. The Skyhawks will be prepared for this scheme, especially since they have a quarterback on roster that runs that in Favre. The defense was very stout not letting either the ground or pass beat them, and the Broncos finished their first game completely balanced.
Head coach Jason Simpson knows that Boise State will not be sleeping on the Skyhawks especially due to the Broncos falling the first week of the season but he doesn’t see Boise State preparing any differently. “Normally you want to try and sneak up on somebody, but coach Petersen will have his team ready to play whether they won or lost last week,” said Simpson.
State of the Day: The 1,820 miles trip to Boise State is the longest trip in UT Martin football history surpassing a Division-II playoff game at Texas A&I in 1988.
#14 Eastern Illinois at Southern Illinois (6:00 p.m. CDT)
Can this game be as impressive as last year’s season opener or will both have a letdown after playing great football against FBS opponents just one week ago.
The Panthers coming off a blowout of San Diego State might have looked pleasant on the scoreboard but in the film room, head coach Dino Babers saw otherwise. “We have to get so much better, its ridiculous. We left a lot of yardage on the field, had a bunch of turnovers.”
Babers was so disappointed with the performance that he had his team practice on Labor Day. Watching the game you can see Babers dissapointment, fumbles seemed to happen at the worst time for the offense in the first half and made fans wonder if they could pull the upset.
It’s also scary to think that they could have done more and will look to do more. If the Panthers can put up 533 yards against an FBS defense, imagine what could happen against FCS opponents! The Panthers will look to execute better as they travel to in-state rival Southern Illinois.
The most impressive performance wasn’t Jimmy Garoppolo, who did throw for 361 yards, it was running backs Taylor Duncan and Shepard Little. The duo combined for 154 yards on the ground, adding an extra dimension to the Panthers already explosive offense. Also the Panthers are running plays faster, almost calling two plays at once so they are always setting up another play.
The defense, which forced five turnovers, will have to face a Salukis passing attack that almost upset another FBS opponent. The Panthers were beaten early by the Aztecs through the air and did allow 318 yards. The Salukis don’t offer much of a running game so this game could be a mirror image of each other, but with SIU going slower.
Stat of the Day: Wide Receiver Erik Lora is 14 receptions away from being atop the OVC all-time receptions list. Currently Harold Roberts who played at Austin Peay from 1967-1970 is the leader with 232 catches.
Jacksonville at Jacksonville State (6:00 p.m. CDT)
The Gamecocks were off to a rough start but were able to hang the game in the win column against the SWAC’s Alabama State. Bill Clark and his team now turn their focus to non-scholarship Jacksonville for the battle of the Jacksonvilles.
The first concern for Jacksonville State was the quarterback situation. Max Shortell is the starter this week due to a couple of items. First he was a major part of the comeback win for the Gamecocks, throwing for 216 yards and a two touchdowns. The other was an injury to Eli Jenkins’s hand which was swollen following the game. Clark said the tests came back negative and that Jenkins is fine.
Clark did open up on his quarterback situation more than just naming Shortell. “It’s that guys spot to lose, but doesn’t mean the other guy won’t play. We treat out quarterbacks like other positions where whoever is playing well will continue to get the opportunity.”
Two players hoping to do better with their opportunities are running backs DeMarcus James and Troymaine Pope. James led the team with rush attempts but only averaged 2.6 yards a carry, Pope would average just a yard better. The ground game will see their chances though, as this game Gamecock team is still a ground attack.
Clark said while their opponents might not have scholarship players, that doesn’t mean the talent isn’t there. “If you look at this team, they look like teams in our league.”
The Dolphins this past week went up north to Delaware and were leading the Blue Hens 14-0 in the first quarter. They did fall though 51-35 while allowing 611 yards and only mustering 224 yards.
Stat of the Day: Jacksonville State has won their last seven home openers with their last loss coming against then ranked Furman in 2005.
Campbellsville at Murray State (6:00 p.m. CDT)
The Racers follow up their money game against Missouri with their home opener against NAIA Campbellsville and also this game will be the team’s senior day. Yes they are honoring the seniors in the second game of the season. Why? “You like to get it out of the way, it just takes you out of their routine,” head coach Chris Hatcher said. I’ll withhold my personal opinion on it, but look at their home schedule and tell me when you would have picked senior day, a game you want to win.
Back to the preview and the Racers. The offense kept the playbook very closed, with Walter Powell saying after the game they only ran eight looks. Expect the playbook to go to maybe 10-12 looks against the lower division team. Maikhail Miller playing really in his first game looked great running the ball, adding to the Racers ground game. Throwing the ball he did alright, but three interceptions (four but a pass interference called it back) all came on blitzes.
As for the defense, it looked like last year’s defense that was last in the league. Maybe it was Missouri just being the better team, and you won’t really see the secondary tested much as they face the option offense. It is a cause of alarm for the fans of the team that hoped to see improvement. Hatcher said it the problem was players not in the right position. Hatcher does have a point to this, as a few of the big plays the Racer allowed had only four players in the box, four! The main issues were in the linebackers, which with their depth could cause some players to lose some snaps in game action.
I doesn’t feel like that was the only problem however. I’ll just put the stats on here and let you decide for yourself how many times the Racers were out of position. Rushing allowed: 358 yards, passing allowed: 336 yards, total yards allowed: 694 yards. In an ideal world against an SEC opponent anything under 500 would be nice.
The goal for the Racers this week is to hit the limit of laps their horse can run on the track after scoring a touchdown, it should happen tonight, probably in the first half.
Stat of the Day: This is the first non-Division I opponent the Racers will play under Chris Hatcher. Their last game against non-D1 was a 66-10 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan in 2009.
Southeast Missouri at Ole Miss (6:00 p.m. CDT)
Lets be honest, this game could get ugly quick. The Redhawks are at the bottom of our power rankings after losing 45-7 on the road. What made it worse was how the Redhawks loss, allowing plays on the ground, something they have been able to stop for awhile.
Head coach Tony Samuel said that his team’s youth showed last week and that the Redhawks need to learn the fundamentals. This week will be a great time to show to show discipline and not get called for penalties, because that just make things even worse when facing a powerful FBS team.
The Redhawks offense does need to improve, we all know that. Kyle Snyder in his first game in two years struggled, throwing for just 75 yards. The ground game rushed for over 200 yards, something we come to expect from the Redhawks. The ground game leader was a bit of a surprise, with sophomore DeMichael Jackson getting 61 yards, with a major chunk happening on a 37 yard run.
Ole Miss comes into the game having beaten Vanderbuilt in a game that made for a thrilling opening Thursday night. “The biggest challenge is going in prepared and playing our scheme and doing our thing,” Samuel said. “We will worry about their talent and speed after that.”
The Rebels have a balanced attack and will probably look for big plays through the air and then just work on the running game, something SEMO struggled with.
Injury note: Starting right tackle Garrett Baker will miss the next four to six weeks due to a broken right leg that he suffered on the team’s opening drive against Southeastern Louisiana.
Stat of the Day: SEMO is 0-4 when they play SEC schools, having been outscored 147-10.
Austin Peay at Vanderbilt (6:30 p.m. CDT)
There are three ways to schedule your non-conference campaign: you can schedule teams to help you get ready for conference play, you can play opponents that might help you earn a FCS playoff spot, or you can take the Austin Peay route. Since we’re already exploiting those college kids anyway, let’s play a series of uncompetitive games that our fans will hate, won’t give our players a serious chance to grow, in an attempt to make as much dough as possible.
This week, the Governors money tour takes them to Nashville, to face a Vanderbilt squad that vomited up a late lead (too soon?) in an opening week SEC loss to Ole Miss.
Some would argue with my earlier claim that these games don’t give players a great chance to grow, but think about this: In a standard, competitive football game, college football teams generally run between 65-75 plays, depening on tempo of course. In their week one loss to Tennessee, Austin Peay ran just 53 offensive plays, gaining 211 yards of total offense. On the other side, the Volunteers ran the ball 52 times for 315 yards. The offense isn’t getting many reps, or a real opportunity to open up the playbook when you earn 11 first downs. The defense is getting reps, sure, but what do you learn when you’re clearly overmatched, and 70% of your opponents snaps are just keeping the ball on the ground?
There were some small bright spots from the Governors opener: special teams, an emphasis of new head coach Kirby Cannon, were fairly solid. The offensive line only allowed two sacks, which is really good considering the opponent.
Andrew Spivey remains at the top of Austin Peay’s depth chart at QB, after an 11-22 performance in the season opener.
Vanderbilt’s problem in week one wasn’t moving the ball: 426 yards of total offense against a conference opponent is solid, but the Commodores couldn’t stop the Ole Miss passing attack, something I wouldn’t expect to be a problem in week two.
Despite being separated by just half an hour, this is the first meeting before the schools. In fact, until this year, Austin Peay had never faced a single SEC opponent.
Stat of the Day: This year is the third straight season that the Governors have opened the year with consecutive games against FBS opponent.