The Gamecocks could face No. 1, but it’s unlikely. On November 16, JSU will travel to Eastern Illinois, who in the last polls has risen to the No. 2 spot. That’s the highest any Ohio Valley school has been ranked since Jacksonville State held the same position in the November 1, 2010 poll.
However, two-time defending champ North Dakota State holds the top spot with a perfect record and with games against only struggling Indiana State and Illinois State before, it’s unlikely the Bison fall. Plus, the EIU Panthers can’t go to sleep either, there’s no guaranteeing they won’t fall before that time.
This weekend, Walter Payton hopeful Jimmy Garoppolo will put his Panthers against No. 21 Tennessee State in a pivotal conference game that matches the top offense in the league against the top defense. If EIU escapes, they still have to travel to a scrappy Murray State team the weekend prior to the JSU game.
Since joining division I in 1995 the Gamecocks have only faced the top ranked team once, a 30-14 loss at McNeese State in 1998. Against the No. 2 team? JSU has had four meetings, losing all including the most recent being a near 37-35 defeat to Furman in the 2005 season opener. For those wondering, the highest ranked team Jax State has beaten is No. 3, coming when the Gamecocks knocked off Northwestern State 19-10 in 2002.
The Gamecocks had a bye week to rest up from a physical first-half of the season, as well as get reps for new guys who’ll see extensive playing tie following the injuries of the last game. Coach Clark’s team approaches every game as a playoff one, and the atmosphere has been about the same coming off back-to-back games against ranked teams. Now, JSU faces a slightly easier task in the near future with Tennessee Tech (3-5) and Austin Peay (0-7).
At 5-2 the Gamecocks are in a position to add to their record and crawl back into position to grab a spot in the polls and join the playoff conversation. However, that November 16 game in Charleston, IL. will go a long way in pushing JSU one way or the other.