Information Overload Jacksonville State Versus Murray State
The Jacksonville State – Murray State matchup is a big game in all respects. Here is a little background on each team followed by who has the edge in matchups.
Murray State’s Season To Date: The Racers season started out with a relatively close loss (9-21) to FBS Louisville. They followed that with two blowout wins over less than formidable opponents, Tennessee State and Mississippi Valley State. The TSU game in particular was impressive, however, with Murray racking up 707 yards of total offense. Then, last Thursday night Murray was shocked by rival UT Martin. Martin jumped on the Racers 28-0 and never looked back. One statistic from that game that may bode well for the Gamecocks– Murray allowed two UTM rushers to eclipse the 100 yard mark.
Jacksonville State’s Season to Date: The Gamecocks opened up with a narrow victory over Martin in a performance that disappointed most fans at the time but looks quite a bit better in hindsight. In the Gamecocks second game, they were soundly defeated by Chattanooga. A disappointing loss, but UTC may end up winning the Southern Conference. The Gamecocks followed the UTC loss with two solid performances against Georgia State and Eastern Illinois, neither of whom are world beaters but both gave JSU closer games last year. While it may have something to do with the quality of opposition, the Gamecocks have looked markedly better on both sides of the ball. On the offensive side in particular, the Gamecocks look better having gained over 400 yards in each of their last two games.
Here’s a look at the matchups:
Jacksonville State running game versus Murray’s run defense:
The Gamecocks are averaging 176 yards per game on the ground whereas Murray gives up 164.5 rushing yards per game. As mentioned above, Murray struggled mightily stopping the run against Martin. Conversely, JSU’s running game appears to be getting better and better as the offensive line improves and Ealey adapts to the Gamecock system. Against EIU, Ealey went for over 150 yards and Middleton only missed eclipsing the century mark by 2 yards. The key for the Gamecocks running attack is to keep pounding the ball and avoid penalties. If they do, Murray, which is more of a finesse team, may not hold up well. Memo to Ealey: Please don’t get any personal fouls.
Advantage: Jacksonville State.
Jacksonville State passing game versus Murray’s pass defense:
The Gamecocks are a run first team this year particularly after starting quarterback Marques Ivory went down in the first game. However, Ivory’s backup Coty Blanchard has proven to be an effective passer completing 62% of his passes. Murray’s pass defense has been mediocre. They have given up over 200 yards in the air in 3 of their 4 games, but never over 300 yards. The major problem for Murray, however, is one of their starting corners and his backup are both out with injuries. When an FCS team gets down to their third stringer, it may present problems.
Advantage: Jacksonville State (based on injuries).
MURRAY PASS OFFENSE VERSUS JACKSONVILE STATE PASS DEFENSE:
This is scary. Against FCS opponents, Murray has thrown for 265, 630 and 240 yards respectively. Murray’s passing attack is led by pre-season All OVC QB Casey Brockman. He will likely be missing one of his favorite targets in WR, Pat Robertson, but the Racers have a talented trio of receivers in Hannibal Beauford (19 recpts), Walter Powell (18) and Arthur Brackett (11).
In contrast to the Racers stellar pass offense, the Gamecocks have been very vulnerable to the pass, giving up a whopping 261 yards per game. A lot of these yards have come as a result of blown assignments as the Gamecocks acclimate to a new defensive scheme. Need one more reason to worry about this matchup, last year, Coach Boone was at Martin and UTM gave up 60+ points to the Racers so it may be a bad scheme matchup.
Insider tip: While we favor the Racers in this matchup, watch for Gamecock Defensive End, Monte Lewis to put pressure on Brockman. He was banged up earlier in the year and is now healthy.
Insider tip #2: The Gamecocks may play running back Rashod Byers some at corner against the Racers. Byers can fly and could really add an exciting element to the Gamecock pass defense.
Advantage: Murray State.
Murray State Running Game Versus Jacksonville State Run Defense.
While due respect to Ealey and Middleton, right now the top running back in the OVC is Murray’s Mike Harris. Harris has gone for 100+ yards in three of four games this year. TSU, who did not play any other defense against Murray, did hold Harris to 13 yards on seven carries. Murray does not have any other rushers that are much of a threat.
To date, the Gamecock run defense has been only marginally better than their pass defense. However, it must be noted that Ole Miss transfer Jack Jackson missed the first two games of the season and the Gamecocks have gotten much tougher since he was declared eligible. Also, converted safety Keginald Harris has transitioned to linebacker making the Gamecocks a quicker unit.
Murray is likely without kick and punt returner, Pat Robertson. Hopefully, the Gamecocks will give Gabriel Chambers some chances to work his majic. He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Murray averages 41.1 yards per punt against the Gamecocks’ 35.7 average (Blanchard’s average is probably a little low because of the number of times JSU has tried to pin their opponents deep). Murray has blocked two punts and been close on several more. The Gamecocks have one block.
Neither team has tried many field goals, but Murray has Kienan Cullen a Pre-Season All OVC kicker who has made 5 field goals this year. JSU counters with James Esco who is 3 for 3 on the year.
SPECIAL TEAMS ADVANTAGE: MURRAY
Several intangbiles favor Murray:
*Murray is at home and got two extra days to prepare after playing on a Thursday against UTM. Their crowd may be a little down, however, as Murray is on fall break.
*The Gamecocks have not played well on the road in quite some time dropping games against Tenn. Tech and EKU at the end of last season followed by the UTC loss this season. In particular, the Gamecocks have not played well in the second half on the road since the Ole Miss game last year.
On the other hand:
*The Gamecocks beat UTM who soundly defeated Murray.
*Murray will be missing some key playmakers. The Gamecocks are too, but are now used to playing without Odie Rush and Marques Ivory.
*The Gamecocks may have some confidence against Murray after defeating them last year and having a 7-1 series advantage over the Racers.
INTANGIBLE ADVANTAGE: Murray State.
Overall, this one looks like it could be a shootout. Since the name of this blog is Gamecock Illustrated (not Racer Illustrated), we will predict JSU 45 – 31.