By Collin Barnwell, FCS Fans Nation Contributor
The grills are primed. RV lots are clean. The famous JSU Boomtown ‘5-Gallons’ are brewing. It’s finally here - College Football!
August 25th kicks off the FCS 2018 college football season when #6 Jacksonville State Gamecocks takes on #14 North Carolina A&T Aggies in the FCS Kickoff Classic sponsored by Guardian Credit Union.
North Carolina A&T Aggies
HBCU ball clubs have gotten a lot of criticism over the years as they do not submit a team for the FCS Playoffs and instead play in a Bowl game - the Celebration Bowl - pitting the top team from the HBCU’s two conferences (SWAC and MEAC) in a winner-take-all National Championship game. The Aggies of Greensboro have a lot to prove for the national TV audience as the six time HBCU national champion take on a ball club who hasn't lost a FCS Regular Season game since 2013.
The 2018 squad returns 8 preseason All-MEAC First Team players and the 2017 MEAC Player of the Year - QB Lamar Raynard who returns for his senior season and is selected to repeat as the Player of the Year in 2018. The defending Celebration Bowl champion Aggies bring the talent needed to knock off the Gamecocks - but will their determination match the style and flair they bring to Montgomery?
Jacksonville State Gamecocks
After a loss of players to the NFL, the 2018 Gamecocks return a solid core of talent aided by a slew of Div-A FBS transfers, most notably University of Kentucky’s 2017 preseason All-SEC Defensive Back, Denzil Ware. The Gamecocks have a sketchy history of falling flat in big time games, most notably exiting in the Second Round of the FCS Playoffs. This year feels different for the Fightin’ Cocks: a solid core at QB, a plethora of talent at Running back, and some hungry Tight Ends should make 2018 the Year of the Gamecocks.
If there was a question mark for the FCS regular season 32-0 Gamecocks, it would be their defense. This offseason saw Defensive Coordinator, David Blackwell be replaced by Andrew Warwick. Warwick comes to Jacksonville by the way of Clemson University where he spent the past six seasons on staff with Dabo Swinney. Will this defense prove to be the achilles’ heel for JSU and hand the Gamecocks their first FCS Regular Season loss since 2013?
Kickoff: August 25th
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. CT
Location: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama