Only 6 more weeks until the end of the season and the OVC is starting to take shape as we see who each team really is. This weekend of matchups should give us an even better idea of how the conference standings will look by the end of November. Southeast Missouri State will take the week off as the rest of the OVC plays on Saturday afternoon. #2 Jacksonville State will host conference cupcake Austin Peay. #21 Eastern Illinois is still seeking a playoff bid and Tennessee Tech is the next team standing in their way. Tennessee State is also looking for a playoff bid and hosts Eastern Kentucky in Nissan Stadium on ESPN3 and two offenses collide as UT-Martin heads to Murray, Kentucky to take on pre-season All-American KD Humphries and the Racers.
Austin Peay (0-5, 0-4 OVC) @ #2 Jacksonville State (4-1, 1-0 OVC) 2PM EST (OVCDN)
I think we all know how this game is going to go, but my boss says I have to talk about it anyway so here we go…
The only thing longer than JSU’s OVC win streak is Austin Peay’s overall losing streak. The Gov’s have lost 21 in a row compared to the Cocks’ 18 OVC wins in a row. So if that doesn’t tell you enough about this game is going to go I don’t know what will.
So let’s talk about something more positive. Austin Peay’s future perhaps?
Well, believe it or not, since Will Healy has taken over Austin Peay has looked like a football team much improved from years past. Their main problem is inconsistency, primarily on the offensive side of the ball. For example, they dropped 35 points on EIU in week 4, more than Illinois State and Miami (OH), however they only mustered 7 against Tennessee Tech. That said, the Gov’s have a very young core of talented players and as Healy develops his talent and builds consistency we should see the Gov’s start to improve their record year to year. Despite the 0-5 record I’m still a fan and hope they can continue to improve. It may not show on the record yet, but the progression is there.
Prediction: Cocks by 6 touchdowns. Austin Peay has less than 50 yards of offense at halftime.
Tennessee-Martin (3-3, 2-1 OVC) @ Murray State (1-4, 1-1 OVC) 7PM EST (OVCDN)
As has been proved all season it doesn’t take much to move the ball on UT-Martin’s defense, they have only held one opponent under 31 points all season (No, Bacone College doesn’t count) and have given up over 350 yards of offense in all of their games this year. This could be a problem as KD Humphries is one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS and can single-handedly torch a defense. This game has the makings of an old fashioned shootout. Both teams are capable of moving the ball and neither knows what a defense is. However, Murray State’s offense has looked suspect at times and inconsistency could ruin Murray State’s chance at an upset. Also, If UT-Martin can win 5 of their next 6 games they would be a strong contender for an at-large bid because they would have 8 wins either an FBS (Georgia State) win or Jacksonville State’s scalp on their resume and both of those wins would look good to the selection committee. That makes this weekend’s matchup a game that UT-Martin can’t afford to lose if they want an invitation to the big dance in November.
Prediction: A high scoring affair, however, Humphries isn’t able to carry the Racers by himself. Both teams put up at least 30 and UT-Martin still wins by at least 14.
#21 Eastern Illinois (4-2, 2-1 OVC) @ Tennessee Tech (2-4, 2-2 OVC) 7PM EST(OVCDN)
At times last weekend in Jacksonville, Tennessee Tech showed a great ability to move the ball and put points on the board. For example, their touchdown drive before half. On that drive, quarterback Michael Birdsong was able to string together a 10 play 65 yard drive. If they can bring that type of offense against EIU they could pose a lot of problems for the Panther’s defense. However, Tennessee Tech needs to be able to run the ball and not turn the ball over. Tech had 5 turnovers in Jacksonville last weekend. Just ask Illinois State what happens when you turn the ball over to the Panthers.
Prediction: EIU stuffs the run and Birdsong is unable to carry Tech to a win. EIU by 7.
Eastern Kentucky (2-3,1-1 OVC) @ Tennessee State (4-1, 1-1 OVC) 7PM EST (ESPN3)
This is my unofficial OVC Game of the Week. This matchup features playoff implications for both teams as this is a must-win for both teams. For Eastern Kentucky this is a must win because they still have EIU and JSU on the schedule, if they can’t beat the Tigers here they likely won’t get past either the Gamecocks or the Panthers and that would spell a 6-5 end to their season. This is also a must-win for Tennessee State because of their strength of schedule. Outside of Vanderbilt, EIU is arguably the strongest team on the Tiger’s schedule this year and they brought home an L after that matchup. Assuming the Tigers take a loss at Vandy and one other OVC team that leaves them at 8-3 and their best win would likely end up being UT-Martin. That’s not exactly a playoff caliber resume given that they even got to miss a matchup with JSU. I could be wrong, it’s just my opinion.
I expect the defenses to be the story of this game. Ebenezer Ogundeko has been terrorizing quarterbacks all season and if the Tiger’s defensive line can stuff the run and make Coney uncomfortable it could be a long day for the Colonel’s offense. If they don’t make Coney uncomfortable he could possibly have another game like he did against SEMO last week.
Prediction: The Tiger’s defense keeps EKU’s offense contained in Nissan Stadium and the Tigers get a solid 2 score win.
Southeast Missouri State will have a bye before traveling to Tennessee Tech on the 22nd.