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FCS Game of the Week Preview: No. 12 Jacksonville State at Murray State

Jacksonville State is out to bounce back after losing an OVC game for the first time in five years

NCAA Football: Murray State at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Saturday, October 27, 2018, 3 p.m. ET

Location: Roy Stewart Stadium, Murray, Kentucky

How To Watch: ESPN Plus

Betting Odds: Jacksonville State -8, Over/Under 58


Jacksonville State has dominated the Ohio Valley Conference over the last five years. The Gamecocks won five conference titles in a row and 36 straight games before getting shellacked on the road by Southeast Missouri State last week. SEMO won 37-14 in a game where Jacksonville State did nothing right. The Gamecocks turned the ball over five times and allowed a blocked field goal to be returned 85 yards for a score.

Now, the Gamecocks travel north to face the only undefeated team left in the OVC. Murray State has rallied and won all four of their conference games after going 0-3 in non-conference play. A Racers win in this one would give them a commanding lead in the race to win the conference.

Reasons to Like Murray State

The Racers’ offense has been great in conference play. They are averaging 577.7 yards per game through four games, and that has led to Murray State averaging 46 PPG. Drew Anderson has looked really sharp against fellow OVC teams, completing 63 percent of his passes for 954 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.

The running game has performed well too. D.J. Penick and Rodney Castille haven’t carried the ball a ton, but they have kept defenses honest with their performances. The duo is averaging over eight yards per carry against conference foes.

Additionally, Murray State have a kicker that has been virtually automatic this year. Gabriel Vicente is 10-10 and has not missed an extra point yet either.

Reasons Not to Like Murray State

For as good as the offense has been, the defense has been almost as bad. The Racers are allowing over 500 yards per game against conference foes, and they rank outside the top 100 in terms of total defense. To their credit, Murray State’s defense has performed better in wins over Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky, but they leave something to be desired.

Reasons to Like Jacksonville State

The Gamecocks have always had one of the best defenses in the country under John Grass. This year has been no different, and although stars like Siran Neal and Darius Jackson have moved on, the unit is still great. Jacksonville State is ranked third in the nation in total defense, and the Gamecocks are allowing 251.6 yards per game.

This year, the offense has been looking really sharp too. Jacksonville State is third in the nation in total offense as well, and they have doubled up their conference opponents in terms of points and total yards. The ground game has been as strong as ever, but the real difference has been Josh Pearson. Pearson has caught 37 passes for 656 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year.

Reasons Not to Like Jacksonville State

Former Clemson quarterback Zerrick Cooper has been inaccurate at times this season. Cooper tossed three picks in the loss to SEMO, and he has completed just 61 percent of his passes in an offense that uses a lot of play action and throws a lot of short stuff. If he has a few missteps here, the Gamecocks might be upset for the second week in a row.

Prediction

It’s been a nice run for Murray State, but Jacksonville State is on a different level. The Gamecocks just had one of those games last week, and they are primed for a bounceback. Look for this team to roll.

Final Score: Jacksonville State 41, Murray State 20