Jacksonville State and Sam Houston have been on opposite sides of the spectrum so far in their debut seasons. The Gamecocks are currently 3-1 while the Bearkats are 0-3. Prior to the season, college football betting odds had the Gamecocks’ win total at 4.5 and the Bearkats’ at 3.5.
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Expectations didn’t seem that much different between the two teams a month ago.
Jax State made some early noise, however, when it defeated UTEP in its first game of the season and then beat what was expected to be a good Eastern Michigan team last week.
The Bearkats have been somewhat competitive in their contests, losing to BYU 14-0 and Air Force 13-3 in their first two outings. Sam Houston’s offense has struggled, but its defense is currently among the best in the league. The Bearkats allow 21.7 points and 351 yards per game, both ranking third in CUSA. These numbers are impressive considering the quality of offenses they’ve faced.
The Gamecocks’ defense has also led them to victories as the 11.8 PPG and 279.8 YPG allowed rank first in the conference.
It’s safe to say Thursday will be a defensive battle. There’s a reason that the over/under of 36.5 points is tied for the lowest total on the FBS slate this weekend.
Based on the early season matchups for these two squads, it’s not surprising that Jax State has gotten off to a better start. Sam Houston has actually faced a brutal introduction to the FBS ranks and the losses aren’t something the program is used to after a decade as a perennial contender in the FCS.
Perhaps the Bearkats can get their first win of the season at home against Jax State. Currently, they’re 6.5-point underdogs. If that’s going to happen, they’re going to need more out of their offense.
That’s what has been lacking.
In last week’s 38-7 loss to Houston, the Bearkats scored their first touchdown of the season on a 2-yard run from Trapper Pannell. The score actually gave Sam Houston its first lead of the season, as well.
The offense showed some life with Grant Gunnell under center when he guided the Bearkats on a seven-play, 83-yard drive for the TD on their opening drive. Gunnell got the start over Keegan Shoemaker, who started the first two games of the year.
Sam Houston will likely need to score more than a TD if it’s going to secure its first FBS win, especially if Jax State’s rushing attack will be doing what it has this season.
The Gamecocks are averaging 231.5 rushing YPG, already have 11 rushing TDs, and Malik Jackson’s 376 rushing yards lead the conference. The Bearkats allow 180 rushing YPG.
Even though these aren’t the two most exciting teams and there will be two other games on at the same time, this game will be worth tuning into.
It will be a great opportunity for them to gain some exposure while Sam Houston looks to get in the win column with an upset while the Jax State looks to move to 2-0 in league play.