Panthers stay in top 25 in Coaches Poll, drop out in other two


Bryan Bund

Redshirt sophomore Bud Martin attempts a pass Saturday, Oct. 22 against Murray State. Martin completed 7-of-14 passes for 119 yards and two interceptions in the 40-38 Homecoming game loss.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor


For the first time this season, the Panthers have lost back-to-back games and it has cost them a spot in the top 25 in two out of the three polls.

Eastern was able to hang on to a No. 24 ranking in the FCS Coaches Poll, but dropped to No. 27 in the STATS FCS Media top 25 poll and to No. 32 in the HERO Sports Media top 25.

The thing is though, even with a top 25 ranking, getting into the playoffs will be a tough task for this Eastern football team. Twenty-four teams are selected to play in the FCS Playoffs, with each conference champion receiving an automatic bid and a first-round bye.

The Panthers most recent loss came to Jacksonville State on Saturday. The Gamecocks remained ranked No. 2 in each of the three polls behind Sam Houston State.

Jacksonville State won the OVC last year and has now won 21 OVC contests in a row. This year; however, may come down to the final game against Tennessee-Martin. The Gamecocks lead the OVC with a perfect 4-0 record, but Tennessee-Martin is right behind them at 4-1.

The two teams will square off in the final game of the season.

But with the way the Gamecocks have played this season and in its previous 21 OVC games, an OVC Championship seems to be in the future for Jacksonville State.

For the Panthers, they are hosting Tennessee-Martin Saturday at O’Brien Field and are still in must-win mode. Eastern was lucky to hang on to a No. 24 spot in the Coaches Poll, but one more loss could drop them out of all three top 25 polls.

The thing is for football; one loss can turn an entire season against a team. Unlike in baseball or basketball, where baseball teams play over 50 games and basketball plays 30, one loss most likely will not derail a season.

Football teams have one chance a week to play and show what kind of team they have and one bad loss could make all the difference. After Easterns’ bad loss to Southeast Missouri earlier in the season, Eastern came out and won back-to-back games and have now lost two in a row.

Eastern sits at 5-4 and have just two games remaining, and with such few games played in a season, four losses might be enough to eliminate a team from playoff contention. Baseball and basketball teams would have 25 plus games to get back on track.

Eastern has had a few games this season where it has showed it has the ability to make some noise in the playoffs with multiple games with over 200 rushing yards and games with more than 500 yards of total offense. But it is the two losses to teams the Panthers should have beat, stand out a little bit more.

It is still possible for the Panthers to make the FCS Playoffs, but if there are any more important games this season, it is these next two. Eastern cannot change what happened the past two weeks, but two wins to end the season will do it some good.

Tennessee-Martin is a 4-1 team and Eastern Kentucky, the Panthers final opponent, is a 1-4 team.

Eastern will have its bye week after taking on Tennessee-Martin, and it can pull off a win this week, the week off may do the Panthers some good to have an extra week of preparation to finish out their regular season schedule.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]