OVC showing parity all across league this season


Bryan Bund

Eastern cornerback Mark Williams brings down an Indiana State ball carrier in a 55-41 loss to the Sycamores in week three. Williams did not play last week against Tennessee Tech, he hopes to be healthy Saturday against Murray State.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

To say the OVC has been weird this season would be an understatement. Outside of betting on Jacksonville State, now 2-0 in the conference, to win every week, the rest of the conference has been wildly unpredictable.

Austin Peay came into the season projected to finish second in the conference, behind Jacksonville State and after week three were ranked 20th in the national FCS poll, but after two conference games, the Governors are now 0-2 and in second-to-last place in the OVC.

Two weeks ago Austin Peay was shocked by Tennessee-Martin in a 37-7 blowout loss, one which dropped Austin Peay out of the national rankings and had a lot of heads turned towards the Skyhawks as being a potential top team in the conference. 

The Tennessee-Martin win over Austin Peay was shocking enough in the conference, but this past week is where things really got weird across the conference.

Jacksonville State put down Austin Peay on Saturday 48-32, really coming as no surprise to anyone. But it was Tennessee-Martin that would once again find itself involved in the shock of the week.

Coming into the game flying-high after pummeling Austin Peay, Tennessee-Martin was delivered a humbling blow by Murray State, who entered the week 0-3, losing to the Racers 45-38 on the road.

The game now raises a big question of who is who across the conference, as Tennessee-Martin was considered a top team after the Austin Peay win and Murray State was looked at as an OVC bottom-feeder, but now it is really difficult to say where any team not named Jacksonville State ranks in the conference. 

The Murray State win does have a little bit of a fluke-win factor to it as the Racers scored three touchdowns on defense, one on an interception returned for a touchdown and two on fumbles recovered in the endzone. 

A win is a win, but certainly the circumstances around Murray State’s first conference win should leave some question marks as to where they really stand in the conference. 

Tennessee-Martin, despite the loss, had another good game from quarterback Dresser Winn. He threw for 331 yards, adding to his conference-best total which is now 1,354. He also added two touchdowns, he leads the league with 10, but also threw another interception, where he also is the conference leader with seven.

Jacksonville State quarterback Zerrick Cooper, a transfer from Clemson, continued his dominance in the conference Saturday against Austin Peay. Cooper scored five total touchdowns, three through the air and two on the ground, passing for 268 yards in the process. 

Jacksonville State is a very good team without Cooper, but having him this season has added a whole other level of scary to the Gamecocks. 

The Gamecocks lead the OVC averaging 48 points per game and lead the conference holding teams to 18 points per game. Jacksonville State is heading into a week six match with Eastern Kentucky and have shown no plans to end the 34-game conference winning streak they are on.

Eastern beat Tennessee Tech 52-38 this weekend, leaving the Golden Eagles as the only winless team in the conference this season as they fall to 0-5 (0-2 OVC).

Next week, however, should help clear up the bundle of teams in the conference all competing for legitimacy as Eastern will square off with Murray State at home, in a game of two teams both trying to prove their first wins were not flukes.

Tennessee State is coming off a narrow four-point loss to Vanderbilt of the SEC and is probably feeling pretty confident with its 1-0 conference record. However, the Tigers will be met by an Austin Peay team trying to prove they still are one of the top dogs in the OVC. Expect this to be the conference’s most intriguing game this weekend.

JJ’s OVC Power Rankings:

Jacksonville State (3-1, 2-0)

Eastern Kentucky (2-2, 1-0)

Tennessee State (2-1, 1-0)

Southeast Missouri (2-2, 0-1)

Tennessee-Martin (1-4, 0-1)

Murray State (1-3, 1-0)

Austin Peay (2-3, 0-2)

Eastern (1-4, 1-0)

Tennessee Tech (0-5, 0-2)

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].