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14 November 2006

Jacksonville State Back in OVC Title Hunt

Even after Jacksonville State lost to Tennessee State four weeks ago, the Gamecocks never lost sight of winning the Ohio Valley Conference championship.

Only thing was, it was next year's championship.

Absorbing a second loss in the league, it was widely assumed winning the title this year belonged to somebody else. With four overall losses, a bid to the Division I-AA playoffs wasn't even on the radar.

So, the Gamecocks set out to build a foundation for next year. But all of a sudden, next year is this year. The Gamecocks are back in the picture.

Not only do they have a chance to claim a share of their third OVC title in four years if they beat No. 17 Eastern Illinois Saturday, there's a possibility they can even get the league's automatic bid to the playoffs.

Can you say surprise?

Some crazy stuff does have to happen. The only way the Gamecocks (6-4, 5-2) stand a chance is by beating the Panthers (7-4, 6-1) in chilly Charleston.

But No. 12 UT-Martin and Tennessee State the two teams that didn't play everybody in the league also have to lose on the road.

Martin plays a last-place Murray State team that has its former head coach at the helm and had last week off. TSU plays at Eastern Kentucky, which it hasn't beaten since 1999 and is playing to keep its 29-year streak of winning seasons alive.

If everything works in JSU's favor, the race would end in a four-way tie at the top and the Gamecocks would claim the league's automatic bid despite having lost to both Martin and TSU because the tie-breaker would fall to everyone's Eastern Kentucky game.

Martin and TSU both would have lost to EKU, the Gamecocks and EIU would have beaten the Colonels, and JSU would get the final tiebreaker by virtue of beating EIU Saturday.

See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com .

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