This week features two games today and two games on Saturday like the majority of college football. While I love Thursday night football, it does create a disadvantage if one of the teams has a bye week the week before the game. Here is our preview of tonight’s games.
#5 Eastern Illinois at Austin Peay (7 p.m. CDT)
Austin Peay Head Coach Kirby Cannon is glad that Eastern Illinois agreed to move the game to Thursday night. Not only was the game moved for attendance reasons, Austin Peay students have fall break next Monday and Tuesday, but the Govs see next week’s game at Murray State a more winnable game. While that will upset Austin Peay’s rival fans, every game is more winnable in the OVC than the EIU game.
Dino Babers and his Eastern Illinois Panthers are coming off a bye week, one that the team needed according to the coach. In that week the team worked mostly on themselves and will a few extra days spent in preparation for this game.
Its a matchup of the best offensive team in the FCS against the worst offense in the FCS. In other words, it could be over in the first quarter if Austin Peay can’t get stops defensively and can’t get yards on offense.
It will be scary to see what Walter Payton front-runner Jimmy Garoppolo will be able to do with the extra film study against a defense. While Austin Peay statistically is the third best pass defense in the conference allowing just 197 yards a game, they are second to last in total defense. The disparity is easy to spot, teams get huge leads on the Govs and then just run the ball. EIU is a pass heavy offense and even when they are leading by large amounts, they are looking for a replacement next year for Garoppolo so they operate like usual.
Austin Peay will be without their best defensive lineman Iosua Siliva who was thought to be done for the season with a fractured left fibula, but The Leaf-Chronicle (soft-paywall link) reports he will be out four weeks. WIthout his pass rush, Garoppolo will have even more time to stay in pocket and read the defense.
On the other side of the ball, Austin Peay is far behind where Cannon wanted to be this year. He said that he doesn’t have to show the guys the stats and where they rank nationally, to make his point. These are the growing pains for the Govs who will look to re-establish a ground game after a six yard performance the week before.
Key to Victory: Eastern Illinois shows up
This may seem harsh but I spent over an hour thinking of ways Austin Peay has a chance to win but I couldn’t. While Cannon is not conceding this game to the Panthers by moving up the game to Thursday so his team can focus on Murray State, it would be better if he did. Eastern Illinois is the top of the mountain in the OVC, Austin Peay is still collecting their hiking gear. The Govs are hurt on defense which doesn’t help their upset effort at all. If Eastern Illinois can score touchdowns they will win the game, if they have to settle for field goals only then Austin Peay might have a chance.
UT Martin at Tennessee Tech (7 p.m. CDT)
Both teams come into today’s matchup off loses and will look to right the ship or see their OVC championship aspirations drift away. Normally Tennessee Tech plays better on Thursday nights at home, as students have yet to leave for the weekend. Golden Eagles Head Coach Watson Brown did suggest years ago that the league go to Thursday night games, luckily for us, it didn’t happen.
A week after we beg coaches to give the Skyhawks a look, they fail Catlin and Tennessee Tech quarterbacks might want to have hazard pay as two quarterbacks have appeared in every game this season.
The Skyhawks last week couldn’t establish a consistent ground game like Head Coach Jason Simpson wanted and with an average 2.8 yards per carry against the Gamecocks. The Skyhawks did throw well with Dylan Favre throwing for 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns but it was the defense that let the team down. The mystery of the Skyhawks has been flashes of excellence but depends greatly on the defense to keep the team in games.
The defense could get an easier week but will be facing a mobile quarterback but have shown they can give up the big play. Last week they allowed over 200 yards on just five plays, and Simpson said it finally caught up with them. While Tennessee Tech is the seventh in the conference, it is difficult to prepare for as no one knows who will play for the Golden Eagles.
Speaking of who will play for Tennessee Tech injuries once again are plaguing the team once again. Backup quarterback Jared Davis, who started last week, is questionable after sustaining a knee injury late against Murray State but could play as a backup. Starting quarterback Darian Stone is back this week after not traveling to the Murray State game with a concussion. Brown says it is giving the young guys game reps which should help the team down the road.
These are the top two teams in red zone offense in the conference with TTU an amazing 19 for 20, and UTM just behind with just one scoring chance left off the board. Even more impressive is TTU has scored 16 touchdowns on those 19 conversions.
Key to Victory: Turnover margin
Everyone knows turnovers determine the winner or loser of a game. For both teams, it can be argued that their turnovers cost them last week. While TTU has a +1 turnover margin, seven fumbles have lead to points for the opposing team including a scoop and score last week. UT Martin for all their talk about a great defense has only five takeaways while the offense has coughed it up 14 times in just five games.