FCS Game of the Week Preview – Jacksonville State vs. Southeast Missouri State
John Grass has Jacksonville State back on track after a disappointing 2019 campaign. The Gamecocks went 6-6 and missed out on the FCS Playoffs for the first time under his watch, and they had their worst season in conference play by a mile. Jacksonville State won five straight Ohio Valley Conference championships between 2014 and 2018, and they only lost one conference game in that stretch. That came in 2018 when the Gamecocks were hammered by the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks 37-14.
Everything that could go wrong for JSU went wrong in that game. The Gamecocks had 422 yards of offense, but they turned the ball over five times and failed to convert on fourth down twice. That helped the Redhawks picked up a big win although they had just 289 total yards, as they played mistake-free football.
This game will take place on Sunday, March 21, 2021 at 3 p.m. ET at Burgess-Snow Field in Jacksonville, Alabama. It will be broadcast on ESPN Plus.
College Football Betting Odds
Southeast Missouri State +7.5
Jacksonville State -7.5
SEMO hadn’t won in Jacksonville since 1991 prior to last season’s 24-21 win over Jacksonville State. The Redhawks took a 10-7 lead late into the fourth quarter before both teams exchanged a pair of touchdowns over the final four minutes.
Neither quarterback was particularly accurate. Daniel Santacaterina completed 12 of 28 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns, while Zerrick Cooper completed 23 of 52 passes for 347 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Cooper’s three fumbles proved to be too much to overcome.
Jacksonville State Offense vs. Southeast Missouri State Defense
Cooper suffered a broken leg in Jacksonville State’s upset win over FBS Florida International in October. He is unlikely to return to action until the fall, but Zion Webb has done a very good job in his absence. Webb is completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 735 yards and seven touchdowns with just two interceptions. He is averaging 8.2 YPA, and he is a solid runner to boot, picking up 4.8 YPC.
The Gamecocks have long been known for their run game. Uriah West, Josh Samuel, and Pat Jackson have proven to be a great trio, teaming up to run for 1,070 yards and nine touchdowns. West (5.3 YPC) and Samuel (4.9 YPC) are the most prolific runners, but Jackson led JSU in last week’s victory over UT Martin.
SEMO’s defense has been good, but not great. The front seven has been a bit of an issue, allowing 4.4 YPC, but opponents are completing just 43.6 percent of their passes against the Redhawks in OVC play.
Southeast Missouri State Offense vs. Jacksonville State Defense
Andrew Bunch transferred from Nebraska at the end of the 2019 season. Bunch won the starting job for the Redhawks, but he has not been great under center. He is completing 55.4 percent of his passes, yet he is averaging under 6.0 YPA and has two touchdowns compared to five interceptions.
This ground game has struggled to move the ball too. SEMO is averaging a scant 3.0 YPC in OVC play. As an offense, the Redhawks are picking up just 4.3 yards per play, so it’s hard to see them having success against a solid Gamecocks’ defense.
Jacksonville State is allowing 4.5 yards per play. Florida State is the only offense that had some success against this defense, and every other team has struggled to move the chains. The front seven is surrendering a scant 3.2 YPC, so Bunch will be forced to take to the air.
The hook is a bit frightening, but Jacksonville State is the best bet this week in the FCS. The Gamecocks should be favored by double digits in this one.