As the football season winds down on us here in the OVC, many fan bases are turning their attention to the court where things are brand new and the records are a clean 0-0. The gridiron match-ups this week feature games that we should know the outcomes before kickoff but as last week showed us, don’t take things for granted.
#2 Eastern Illinois at Murray State 12:00 p.m.
TV: The Panthers and Racers just a year ago were at completely different ends of the spectrum. The Racers had postseason aspirations, the Panthers were just hoping to get out of the bottom of the conference. A simple two-point conversion has changed these programs, most notably EIU.
The two teams have had similar circumstances and it what many Murray State fans call the greatest game ever played at Stewart Stadium. In that game Shane Andrus kicked a 52-yard field goal as time expired to give the Racers a 37-35 win over Tony Romo and the No. 2 Panthers.
This year’s matchup feels completely different however. The Panthers are shoulders above the rest of the conference with the best offense in the entire country. The Racers defense is porous and lives on turnovers to end drives. Needless to say the game is very heavily favored toward the Panthers.
While Eastern Illinois has their quarterback position set, the Racers have reopened theirs. Maikhail Miller has struggled the past few weeks leaving the coaching staff to simplify the offense and things haven’t changed. Head Coach Chris Hatcher said that his team on offense has been predictable at times. At least the Racers have a ground game produced by Jaamal Berry who has had back-to-back 100 yard games. Needless to say I don’t see this game ending the Panthers quest for a perfect OVC season.
Tennessee Tech at Southeast Missouri 1:00 p.m.
ZW: SEMO and Tennessee Tech’s matchup is a battle for pride at the bottom of the conference. The Golden Eagles and Redhawks are 7th in our power rankings. Tech is winless in OVC play, and SEMO is coming off a close win against a D-II Urbana (Ohio).
Both defenses are allowing more than thirty points and four hundred yards per game. Expect this matchup to be a shootout, and the quarterback who can throw the ball will win the game. With that said, SEMO quarterback Scott Lathrop is more efficient in the pocket than either of Tech’s signal callers.
Austin Peay at Tennessee State 2:00 p.m.
The Govs and Tigers come into this weekend with losing streaks but the location of the game, Hale Stadium, could be what is needed for the Tigers to right the ship.
It might seem crazy but the Govs offense is right now better than the Tigers offense which was shutout last weekend against Eastern Kentucky. Tigers put the ball on the ground seven times last weekend losing four. Tennessee State is in the midst of playing twelve straight games and it taking a toll on the team that seems to be losing key pieces every week.
One of the biggest problems has been quarterback Ronald Butler’s lack of stretching defenses. It works fine when the ground game is eating all the yards but if this team is down 20+ in the second half, defenses aren’t afraid the let Butler beat them through the air.
While the Tigers are dropping like flies, the Govs have seen the emergence of Omar Williams who took over for Tim Phillips upon a season-ending injury. Williams was named the OVC’s Newcomer of the week after his 179 yard performance against Jacksonville State last weekend. The young talent is starting to develop for the Govs at the right time which shows promise for next season.
Eastern Kentucky at Jacksonville State 3:00 p.m.
ZW: Last week, Eastern Kentucky showed the OVC it is still one of the best teams in the conference. Coming off a huge home win, the Colonels travel to Jacksonville State to renew a recently lopsided rivalry. Eastern Kentucky handed the Gamecocks a 51-21 blowout, but this rivalry is more important this year. If JSU wins tomorrow, OVC chaos will ensue and likely result in only Eastern Illinois going to the FCS playoffs.
Eastern Kentucky’s defense finally showed its prowess last week by shutting out an efficient Tennessee State offense. On offense, quarterback Jared McClain is coming off a great week as well. If McClain continues his success, Eastern Kentucky will likely achieve a result similar to last year’s match.
Jacksonville State finally gets back quarterback an injured Max Shortell to stretch the field vertically and open up more running lanes for stud running back DaMarcus James. The Gamecocks will likely start the game conservatively to see how Shortell does. James will likely be the focal point of the JSU offense and the EKU defense early in the game. On defense, the Gamecocks need to make enough stops to give the offense a chance at some late game magic (see Alabama State, North Alabama, etc.).
UT Martin at Memphis 3:30 p.m.
Last season it was a lengthy lightning delay that tilted the game in favor of the Skyhawks who kicked a field goal in the final seconds to upset the FBS Tigers. This year the forecast calls for mostly sunny, but the sun hasn’t shined at all on the Tigers who are just 1-6 on the season.
The part to watch for the Skyhawks is who is the quarterback this weekend. The game notes call for Jarod Neal to get the start and who could blame the Skyhawks. Neal who has started the last four games, has done quite well in the games leading to three wins. It is always helpful to have a great weapon and it has been Jeremy Butler rising up to the occasion with five straight games with a touchdown reception.