The Aggies are participating in this year’s FCS Kickoff Classic after a historic undefeated 12-0 season last year. They certainly won’t be intimidated by playing one of the perennial top FCS powers in Jacksonville State, after upsetting Charlotte last year and pulverizing the rest of their schedule.
Key Player:QB Lamar Raynard passed for a MEAC-best 2,932 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, and has compiled a 26-0 record as a starter. In order to finish with that perfect record and plaster the record books, he’ll need to have his line still offer excellent protection (they only yielded 11 sacks last year) and he’ll need to remain healthy. He’s got stiff competition, but he has a chance to be the FCS’ best quarterback this season.
Jacksonville State also had a dominating season in 2017, with ten straight wins bookended by losses to an FBS team to start the season and a FCS playoff loss to Kennesaw State to finish the year. Never one to shy away from challenges, the Gamecocks will have ESPN’s stage to themselves on Saturday night when they take on the winners of last year’s Celebration Bowl in North Carolina A&T.
Key Player: From one OVC preseason defensive player of the year to another, DB Marlon Bridges steps into a huge role for the Gamecock defense. With 81 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 3 interceptions, he’ll be expected to continue being a dominating force on the best defensive unit of the OVC.
Fearless Prediction: In all aspects, from the football game to the incredible bands, this FCS Kickoff Classic should be a terrific one to behold, headlining a contrast in styles and talents that should end up being an incredibly entertaining football game. Expect it to be settled late, and expect special teams, or defense, to be the deciding factor – just – for the Gamecocks. Jacksonville State 41, North Carolina A&T 38.