Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo MESPORTS SOUTH
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MONTGOMERY, ALA– Later this evening when the sun is sinking low down in Montgomery, Alabama it will mark the return of college football and the first NCAA sporting event since the wrath of 2020 and the pandemic shut down sports nearly five months ago. While there are a plethora of major college football conferences that will not be seeing the gridiron this Fall, there still will be a handful of the conferences that have decided to keep truckin as long as the fates may allow it.
Saturday’s evening kick-off may not be headlined by appearances from the likes of powerhouse teams like Clemson, LSU, or Alabama. Instead, all eyes will be on two of the FCS top tier teams the Austin Peay Governors as they roll into Bama to take on the Central Arkansas Bears in the 2020 Guardian Unit Credit FCS Kick-Off.
Even if it has been deemed “Week 0” you can bet that even for football fans who know nothing about either of these ball clubs the fact that there is college football in the flesh on Saturday night will be enough to get the virtual tailgates and Zoom watch parties riled up and tuning to ESPN.
Saturday, August 29th,2020
Kick-Off: 8 PM CT
Stadium: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama
The Governors are looking to re-ignite the momentum they built last season with an overall record of (11-4,7-1) that won them the Ohio Valley Conference championship which hadn’t happened since 1977. Despite their success, they lost in the FCS quarterfinals to Montana State to close out 2019. You can’t help but factor in also how the July departure of their head coach Mark Hudspeth will play a role. Under these circumstances, the question is can they regroup quickly enough under Interim head coach Marquise Lovings?
Like they say it’s not where you start its how you finish. This was indeed the mantra for this ball club. Projected to come in 4th in their conference and not really much expected in production was just the fuel they needed. Look for the leading defense in the OVC that averaged 20.6 points per game and whose run defense was ranked 16th in the country allowing only 104.1 yards to move swiftly against All-Southland QB Breylin Smith and a stout front line. You can be sure that the Governors will use their two top defensive enforcers Kordell Jackson and Josephus Smith. The Governors forced 25 turnovers last season Jackson accounted for seven interceptions while Smith had 7.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
While the Governors offense averaged 34.5 points last season they will not have their starting QB or explosive playmaker RB to rely on for swift production. However, the return of Jeremiah Oatsvall the 2017 OVC Freshman of the Year taking the reigns along with strong backfield targets in Bankio Harley and DeAngelo Wilson might be enough to keep the production rolling in their season opener. Wilson had 89 receptions for 1, 564 yards and 15 touchdowns while Harley caught 53 passes and scored 7 times.
The Bears are back on the hunt after finishing 9-4 last season sharing the Southland conference title with Nicholls and are favorited by 5 points to start the COVID era of college football. Expect for the Bears to work swiftly and get right down to business on the offensive side of the ball led by All-Southland QB, Breylin Smith. Smith completed 64.5 % of his passes and threw for a school-record of 3,704 yards and accounted for 32 touchdowns last season. The passing attack that Smith brings should be able to be even more productive with a more stout and experience line protecting him and be able to utilize more of his backfield weapons which he will need going against a strong and forcefully Austin Peay Defense. While there may be many uncertainties surrounding this match-up you can be sure that Smith with utilizing Southland Freshman of the Year Tyler Hudson to be his go from the RedZone to the endzone. Hudson is credited with 975 yards, 55 receptions that resulted in 12 touchdowns. If Smiths’ offensive front can make sure to have kept their pass protection game tight and avoid being plagues by sacks and interceptions like last season then it may just put a strain early on the Governor’s ability to make big stops for four quarters.
Now on the defensive side of the ball, I am not quite sure what to expect or 100 % sold that even with an explosive future NFL prospect like Robert Rochell it will be enough to rely solely on his talent to carry an entire defense against a more balance Austin Peay ball club. However, what may help even with a talented signal-caller returning back to action for the Governors they may not have yet worked out all the kinks to cohesiveness that maybe the window of opportunity the Bears will use to come up with the big stops in tonight’s match-up.
While this may not be the season opener we have wanted I think it is what college football needed during these uncertain times. I am going to go with Austin Peay +4. Granted we see how the weather and COVID testing results will affect both teams leading up to tonight’s kick-off. The return of Oatsvell will be a huge X-Factor for Austin Peay victory. His dual-threat capabilities will help move the ball fast and take plenty of time off the clock tonight that may be more than the Bears bargained for. So grab those libations and break out your favorite cigars ladies and gents because football is back baby!
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