GAME PREVIEW: GUARDIAN FCS KICKOFF CLASSIC

Austin Peay Governors vs. Central Arkansas Bears
Saturday August 29, 2020, 9:00pm EST
Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama
Broadcast: ESPN

While many FCS teams and conferences have decided against playing football this fall, Central Arkansas most empathically have not. The Bears have schedule 9 games for this fall including travelling to three FBS games and to Fargo, ND to take on the North Dakota State Bison. Central Arkansas is kicking off the FCS season as originally scheduled in the Guardian FCS Kickoff Classic this weekend against Austin Peay.

Austin Peay will be playing three games this fall.  The Governors will play the Kickoff Classic this weekend and will travel to FBS sites to play Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in September.

This game between Austin Peay and Central Arkansas was supposed to kick off another exciting season of FCS football. These are two teams who won their conferences in 2019. Central Arkansas was the playoff’s 8 seed and lost their second round game to Illinois State. Austin Peay was even more successful in the playoffs. The Governors blew out Furman in the first round and outscored favored Sacramento State in the second round before bowing out in the quarterfinals to Montana State in Bozeman.

The eyes in this game will be focused where you expect it – the quarterback position. Austin Peay gets Jeremiah Oatsvall back under center after he was limited to just two games in 2019 due to injury. JaVaughn Craig did an excellent job after Oatsvall went down. With Craig graduated, the job is Oatsvall’s again. Oatsvall was the 2017 OVC Freshman of the year. As a sophomore in 2018, Oatsvall set a school record with 26 touchdowns responsible for. 

Courtesy Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

For Central Arkansas, the star shines even brighter at the quarterback position with Junior Breylin Smith. Smith played all 13 games and set a Bears school record for passing yards with 3704. His 32 touchdown passes tied for 6th in the nation in 2019. The Bears opened the 2019 season with a win over FBS Western Kentucky and Smith led the way. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 324 yards and 3 touchdowns. At the end of the season, Smith was named one of 25 semifinalists for the Walter Payton Award given to the best player in the FCS.

This game is not without impact players at other positions. Austin Peay returns 2nd Team All American wide receiver Deangelo Wilson. As a Junior in 2019, Wilson set program records in receptions (89), receiving yards (1564) and receiving touchdowns (15). Wilson should be on NFL teams’ radars for the 2021 draft. These three games in the fall could put him in the running to be drafted.

On defense, the Governors have leading tackler Jack McDonald and leading sack man Josephus Smith and top interception returner Kordell Jackson leading the attack. Austin Peay will most likely have to lean on its defense in this game against a stout Central Arkansas offense.

Central Arkansas returns two strong receivers, Tyler Hudson and LuJuan Winningham. Hudson was the 2019 Southland Conference freshman of the year. Hudson had 55 catches for 975 yards and 12 touchdowns. Winningham added 50 catches for 814 yards and 8 touchdowns. Winningham had 3 of his touchdown catches in the win over FBS Western Kentucky.

The best returning player on the Bears defense is linebacker TJ Campbell. Campbell had 65 tackles, 9 of those for loss and 3 sacks. He will look to build on that year in the 9 games the Bears have on schedule this year.

This should be an excellent game to kick off the FCS season. When looking at a prediction for this game, Austin Peay has the better defense, but Central Arkansas has the better offense. Go with the offense in this game. Central Arkansas 31, Austin Peay 23.  

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