After seven weeks of play, only five FCS teams remain undefeated. Some, like BR-1 North Dakota State and BR-11 Coastal Carolina, we saw coming. We ranked each of these schools almost exactly where they’re at now before the season started. Harvard is undefeated, but with their strength of schedule, it would be surprising if they weren’t. The other two? Well, the other two were pretty surprising. We already talked about Illinois State earlier this week, so now we’ll go over the other surprise undefeated team in the FCS: BR-10 Eastern Kentucky.
The Colonels started the season at BR-26 after a 6-6 2013 season that saw them finish fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference behind Eastern Illinois, Tennessee State, Jacksonville State, and UT Martin. Even with their .500 record, there wasn’t much drama in Eastern Kentucky’s season; they either won big or lost huge nearly every weekend. Only twice did they finish within two touchdowns of their opponent in either direction (a 16-7 loss to UT Martin and a 34-27 OT loss at Murray State). Lots of blowouts.
Junior quarterback Jared McClain finished third in the OVC in passing yards per game, but only because no one in the OVC other than Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois and Maikhail Miller of Murray State threw the ball more than a dozen times per game. McClain led the offense to 26.8 ppg on average, fifth-best in the nine-school conference. On the other side of the ball, the defense finished second in the conference in yards allowed per game at 368.2, but fourth in scoring at 25.4 ppg.
This season, Eastern Kentucky has scored more points than any team in the OVC with a 36.2 ppg scoring-average. They have the best scoring defense in the conference as well at 15 ppg. The Colonels also lead the conference in turnover margin at +1 per game, something they weren’t great at a season ago, at +0.2 per game.
The Colonels haven’t built up these impressive stats over weak competition either, at least not entirely, they already have wins over BR-28 UT Martin and BR-22 Eastern Illinois, two of the teams they lost to last season.
So what’s changed? Well, in the run-happy OVC, you need a running back to win games, and that’s exactly what they got in Kentucky transfer Dy’Shawn Mobley. In his first season with EKU, the junior leads the OVC in rushing yards through six games with 648. In fact, he doesn’t just lead the conference, he’s running away with it — he’s more than 200 yards ahead of Jacksonville State’s DeMarcus James, the player in second place. As a team, the Colonels trail only the Gamecocks in rushing yards per game, and only by three yards on average (253.8 to 250.3).
Jacksonville State has to travel to Richmond to play Eastern Kentucky November 8, and the Colonels don’t play any BR Top 25 competition in the interim. A road-game at BR-26 Tennessee State could be a stumbling block if there were one left on the schedule before the showdown with the Gamecocks, but if the Colonels make it to that game undefeated, it will almost certainly decide the OVC.
The Colonels finish their regular season at Florida, which at first-blush seems like an almost guaranteed loss. Don’t be so sure though. The (currently 3-3) Gators could be fighting for bowl-eligibility, and looking ahead to the following weekend, when they have to go on the road to play defending FBS champion Florida State. Florida got shocked by a run-heavy Georgia Southern team at home last year, so maybe they’ll take this one a little more seriously, but this matchup screams trap-game potential.
Eastern Kentucky’s two-headed quarterback monster of McClain and redshirt sophomore Bennie Coney have combined for 90-of-156 passing for 1,114 yards, 8 TDs, and 7 INTs. Wide receiver Jeff Glover contributed a pair of passing TDs on trick plays, and McClain is the second-leading rusher on the team with 46 attempts for 270 yards and 5 TDs. If they can limit the turnovers and keep this momentum rolling, undefeated or not, the Colonels are going to be dangerous in the postseason.