Week One: Ohio Valley Previews

  Photo: USA Today - Austin Peay v. UCF - 2017

Photo: USA Today - Austin Peay v. UCF - 2017

By Collin Barnwell, FCS Fans Nation Contributor

“The OVC will always be a one-bid league.”

“The Ohio Valley Conference is the worst FCS conference.”
“Our worst team could go undefeated in the OVC.”

In recent years, the OVC has become a punching bag for other FCS conferences during the regular season and early exits in the playoffs aren’t helping. In 2018, the OVC looks to change the tide of past years’ out of conference schedules and bolster some quality wins, and maybe even a few upsets.

The 2018 Ohio Valley college football season kicks off this Thursday as Tennessee Tech takes on UT-Chattanooga in the first game of the Week One campaign. You’ll find a synopsis and score prediction for each game below:

 

Thursday, August 30th


Tennessee Tech at Chattanooga

Time: 7:00 pm ET

Video: ESPN3

The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles are anxious to get the 2018 season started. After posting a 1-10 record in 2017, this season hopes to build on the limited success they had last season. While the Golden Eagles averaged 198 yards per game passing last year, they will face one of the more dominate Pass Defenses from 2017, ranking in the Top 15 (FCS) Nationally, which only allowed 163 yards per game. This is one of the more curious OVC games this weekend for Jax State fans. UT-Chattanooga has been a ‘rival’ for the Gamecocks, and the Golden Eagles will travel to Jacksonville on 09/22 to face the Gamecocks. Whup ‘Nooga.

Final Score: TTU 24 | UTC 10


Morehead State at Eastern Kentucky

Time: 7:00 pm ET

Video: ESPN+

The Colonels from Richmond (KY) use to be the OVC powerhouse, amassing two Div. I-AA National Titles in ‘79 and ‘82 and making the Div.-IAA playoffs from 1979 to 1995, only missing one year in 1985. As the Kentucky Colonels look at making a return to the national spotlight, a non-scholarship Morehead State stands in their way. Neither team posted stellar Offensive or Defensive stats in 2017; however, each team did boast a Top 10 ranking in Special Teams - Morehead posted an 8th best (FCS) in average Punt Return Yardage (13.79 yards) while Eastern Kentucky ranked 1st and 2nd (FCS) in average Kickoff Return Yards (27.52 yards) and Net Punting Yards (41.1 yards), respectively. Look for this game to come down to field position and Special Teams coverage.

Final Score: MSU 10 | EKU 21


Southern Illinois at Murray State

Time: 7:00 pm ET

Video: ESPN+

 The Racers of Murray State come into 2018 looking to shed their 3-8 record from last season. With the loss of Defensive Back D’Montre Wade, look for an inexperienced Racer defense to be tested early. With Shuler Bentley returning for a RS-Senior year and another RS-Senior QB transfer from FBS Buffalo, look for the Racers to try and change the tide this year and score some points.

Final Score: SIU 24 | MSU 35

 

 

Saturday, September 1st


#22 Austin Peay at #3 Georgia

Time: 3:30 pm ET

Video: ESPN

ESPN Matchup Predictor:

            Austin Peay - 0.2%

            Georgia - 99.8%

The 2017 National Champion Runner-Up Georgia Bulldogs will face Will Healy’s Governors in Athens to kick off the 2018 college football season. Healy and Austin Peay return the team’s leading rusher Ahmaad Tanner and dual-threat quarterbacks Jeremiah Oatsvall and JaVaughn Craig. Healy’s offense averaged 259 rushing yards and finished the season ranked 6th in the FCS in Rushing yards per game. With their clever mash-up of option and run-heavy offense, look for the Governor's to test the young Bulldog defense and hold their own and possibly take a lead… until halftime.

Final Score: APSU 14 | UGA 56 


Eastern Illinois at Arkansas

Time: 4:00 pm ET

Video: SEC Network

ESPN Matchup Predictor:

            Eastern Illinois: 1.7%

            Arkansas: 98.3%

The 6-5 Eastern Illinois Panthers ending 2017 averaging 293 yards of Total Offense but ranked in the Top 20 Nationally (FCS) in 3rd Down Defense (19th, 32.7%). The Panthers need to have one goal if they want to survive against a talented Razorback squad - get in the backfield EARLY. The ‘Air-Raid’ style offense will also need to get off the line quickly if they want to jump into an early lead.

Final Score: EIU 14 | ARK 35


UT-Martin at Missouri

Time: 4:00 pm ET

Video: SEC Network

ESPN Matchup Predictor:

            UT-Martin: 1.6%

            Missouri: 98.4%

2017 left a bad taste in the Skyhawks mouth as they finished the season 6-5, going 4-4 in the Ohio Valley. In their 2017 match-up against the SEC, the UT-Martin defense held Ole Miss to a season LOW in rushing yards (54 yards) but gave up a season high passing yards (489 yards). The biggest positive of the Skyhawks’ 2017 campaign was boasting a #1 (FCS) Red Zone Defense - allowing opponents to score 60.6% of the time.

Final Score: UTM 10 | MIZZ 42


Southeast Missouri at Arkansas State

Time: 7:00 pm ET

Video: ESPN+

ESPN Matchup Predictor:

            Southeast Missouri: 6.2%

            Arkansas State 93.8%

 

Southeast Missouri finished 2017 with a 3-8 record, and it very well could have been 8-3 as five of their losses came by only a 7-point margin.  In 2017, SEMO struggled to find a defense that could constantly stop opponents. The Red Wolves of ASU boasted a Top-5 (FBS) Passing Offense in 2017, averaging 342 yards per game through the air. SEMO drops this one by a BIG margin.

Final Score: SEMO 10 | ASU 45

 

Bethune-Cookman at Tennessee State

Time: 7:00 pm ET

Video: ESPN+

 

This HBCU Classic will be a fight of defenses. The Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman boasted a defense that limited opponents to 23.9 points per game, while the Tigers of TSU finished 2017 with a Top-10 (FCS) Passing Yards Allowed (146 yards) per game and Total Defense (278.5 yards) per game. TSU holds a slight edge over the Wildcats, with the Tiger offense averaging 24.3 points per game.

Final Score: BCU 24 | TSU 35