The Ohio Valley Conference has always been a fickle beast when it comes to football. Teams easily go from on top of the world one week, to kicking their feet in the dirt the next. Only, that hasn’t been the case this season. Eastern Illinois looks untouchable, every one else has gone down when expected, without much in the way of major upsets.
I kind of miss the old, self-cannibalizing OVC.
Week 10 finally brought us a taste of the way things used to be, although it was just a small wave of chaos, a peak into a crazier, anyone can win world of college football.
Here are the 10 things we learned in Week 10:
1) SEVEN FUMBLES IS FAR TOO MANY
Even if you only lose four of them. If you just look at the final score, you would probably come to the conclusion that Tennessee State played absolutely horribly. They didn’t play well, mind you, but they weren’t exactly the dumpster fire the final score would indicate. Their biggest problem: holding onto the football. The Tigers put the ball on the ground seven times against EKU, and were probably lucky they only lost four of them. It wasn’t their only problem, but it was a major one.
2) TENNESSEE STATE NEEDS MICHAEL GERMAN
Virtually every week, when discussing Tennessee State’s freshman quarterback Ronald Butler, it begins with something along the lines of, “he’s a solid option, but…” For the most part, whatever I said after that, generally that he hasn’t been able to stretch the field (a common complaint this season) was mostly inconsequential, because the Tigers were winning. This week, Butler’s shortcomings became apparent. Even taking fumbleitis into account, TSU’s offense wasn’t good, posting a ridiculously low 178 yards of total offense. Even if the defense played well, that’s going to lose a lot of football games.
3) EASTERN KENTUCKY HAS BEEN THERE ALL ALONG
When EKU got blown out by Eastern Illinois, we (the media in general) all but wrote off the Colonels. We knew EKU didn’t have much of a chance to win the conference (EIU losing twice?!?) but more so than that we focused all of our attention on Tennessee State as the team to earn the expected second FCS tournament spot from the conference. It didn’t help that EKU’s wins weren’t flashy — they weren’t putting up 40+ points a week like the Panthers, or shutting down teams like the Tigers. But make no mistake, we shouldn’t be shocked that EKU topped Tennessee State. It’s our fault for overlooking them since Week 5.
4) THE OVC ISN’T LOCKED INTO TWO TEAMS INTO THE FCS PLAYOFFS
We’ve been operating more or less under the assumption that the expanded FCS playoffs makes two OVC teams a lock. Well, I’m not so sure anymore. Rankings aren’t everything, but it’s hard to imagine a team outside the top-20 who doesn’t win their conference making the 24-team field. With ranked TSU certain to fall from the rankings (probably being replaced by EKU) there will not be a second top-20 team this week. While EKU still has a shot, if there is the classic OVC chaos in the weeks to come, don’t put a second team into the postseason just yet.
5) DIVISION II URBANA (OHIO) HAS A BETTER QUARTERBACK THAN SOME IN THE OVC
Without a doubt, the most shocking score of the weekend was SEMO struggling to get past the Blue Knights of Urbana University. Urbana jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and held a lead in the fourth quarter over the Redhawks, who were seriously lucky to come away with a win, at home, against a Division II school. The reason the game was so close is a player by the name of D.J. Mendenhall. Against SEMO, the Urbana signal caller hit 23 of 38 passes, throwing for 260 yards and a touchdown. How about the Redhawks quarterbacks? Kyle Snyder was 7-15 for 109 yards. Scott Lathrop 7-17 for 125 yards, and two picks. Both did throw a pair of touchdown passes, though, helping the Redhawks to their second win of the season.
6) EASTERN ILLINOIS IS THE ONLY TEAM IN CONTROL OF THEIR OWN FATE
With Murray State’s loss to UT Martin, the Panthers are now the only team that doesn’t need help, namely from an EIU loss or two, to win the OVC championship. The way they’ve been playing, I fully don’t expect them to provide that help to anyone.
7) MURRAY STATE IS IMPLODING
That might be an understatement. After their win on the road at Jacksonville State to start OVC play, it looked like this Racers team could take the next step. Sure, they weren’t likely to win an OVC title, but they hadn’t really been in the conversation for the FCS playoffs for quite sometime. A loss at SEMO two weeks ago was a warning sign. This week’s loss was a full on siren. The Racers took a 14-0 lead at UT Martin, before just laying down to the Skyhawks, being outscored 45-2 down the stretch. In the second half, they looked uninterested at times, which is the biggest sign the Racers slide may be just beginning.
8) JAROD NEAL SHOULDN’T PUNT, BUT HE SHOULD ABSOLUTELY KEEP PASSING
Quite possibly the funniest stat on this weeks stat sheet is under the category of punting, where Jarod Neal punted once for -3 yards. He had a much better day under center, coming in after an ineffective start by Dylan Favre. Neal hit 18 of 24 passes, throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the Skyhawks blowout win. UT Martin’s quarterbacks have been inconsistent across the board this season, which is why the Skyhawks are inconsistent. (Well, that and their defense) Right now, Neal appears to have the hot hand, and the Skyhawks should keep giving it to him until it cools.
9) JACKSONVILLE STATE HAS A STUD WIDE RECIEVER IN JOSH BARGE
Jacksonville State was the recipient of the Austin Peay bye this week, so there’s not much to talk about with the Gamecocks. Except for freshman wide out Josh Barge. This weekend, barge broke the school record for most catches and yards by a JSU freshman, and there’s still three games to go in the season. The Gamecocks have been devastated by injuries this season, but they’ve got a bright future in Barge.
10) WATCHING AUSTIN PEAY VERSUS TENNESSEE TECH MAY INDUCE HEADACHES
You have three weeks to prepare yourself, and I suggest you do, because it could be very ugly.