Saturday the Gamecocks (7-2) will host the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (6-3) in what was circled as one of the biggest games of the year during the preseason. Now that it’s here, the circumstances call for it to be an even bigger game.
Going into the season, the players all agreed that you want to win every game, but if there was one opponent that it would feel just a little better beating than another, that team would be EKU.
The Colonels have had JSU’s number as of late winning five of the last six matchups and are currently the only Ohio Valley team that the Gamecocks have a losing record against in a series. As is the case most years, EKU was one of the team picked preseason to fight for the conference title, but a slow start made it look like the Colonels may not be as strong.
While JSU opened the year 4-0, WKU started 2-3. However, the early schedule was brutal for the Colonels with a 44-7 loss to FBS Louisville behind Teddy Bridgewater. A week later EKU fell to Coastal Carolina 51-32, it turns out now that the loss wasn’t as bad seeing as the Chanticleers (good nickname) are undefeated and ranked in the top five. EKU’s other early loss came to another top five team in Eastern Illinois, the team that JSU will face next week.
Since the rough start, the Colonels have reeled off four consecutive wins included a surprise 44-0 rout of previously ranked Tennessee State last week.
The Gamecocks come in this week as the first team out of the Top 25 just 14 voting points behind New Hampshire. Just two back… is Eastern Kentucky. With Eastern Illinois in control of the conference title, the race for second and a chance at an at-large bid in the 24-team playoffs is rapidly heating up.
A win Saturday will almost guarantee either team being ranked next week. After JSU, the Colonels finish their season against UT-Martin (6-3) and Murray State (5-4) while the Gamecocks have the daunting task of traveling to face Eastern Illinois (8-1) and then return home for SE Missouri State (2-7).
Aside from everything just mentioned, a win for Jacksonville State Saturday would be a milestone as it be the 250th win for the Gamecocks at JSU Stadium since it was originally opened in 1946.