Is the OVC more open than ever? 


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern quarterback Harry Woodbery hands the ball off to Courtney Rowell in the Panthers’ game against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 28. Eastern lost the game 40-29.

JJ Bullock, Editor-in-Chief

The Ohio Valley Conference hierarchy for football is not what it used to be.  

The halfway point for the 2019 football season has come and gone, and the OVC standings are … interesting, to say the least.  

Perennial powerhouse Jacksonville State is just 3-2 this season, Tennessee-Martin is in first place, Eastern is winless and a conference that has lacked parity in recent seasons appears to be flush with it thus far.  

Jacksonville State has been the most interesting case study to this point.  

The Gamecocks have won the conference every year since 2014 and in fact did not lose a conference game between 2014 and 2017. The Gamecocks were not just winning games during that stretch, but they were flat out dominating the conference.  

But it seems as though the winds of change have begun to blow in the OVC. 

Jacksonville State won 36 conference games in a row until Southeast Missouri handed them a loss last season. After going 36-0 in a dominant stretch of games for four years, the Gamecocks are just 4-2 in their last six conference matches and even in some of their wins have shown signs of vulnerability.  

Southeast Missouri beat the Gamecocks in 2018 by rushing the ball for 184 yards, poking holes in what had to that point been a staunch Jacksonville State defense, and this season Austin Peay followed the same recipe Sept. 28 in a 55-32 bludgeoning of the Gamecocks, in which they ran the ball for 246 yards.  

It is certainly not time to freak out about the Gamecocks; not even close. It may not even be time to think they are not still the best team in the conference, but it is clear the gap is closing between them and the teams that are chasing them.  

The Gamecocks may still have the OVC’s best quarterback in Zerrick Cooper and the best receiver in Josh Pearson. Jacksonville State is also third in points scored and second in points allowed this season, but you can bet teams like Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri like their chances this year more than ever.  

Tennessee-Martin already matched its conference win total from 2018 thanks to its 2-0, first place start to 2019.  

The Skyhawks’ two wins have come against lowly Murray State in a 40-7 blowout Sept. 28 and against Eastern Kentucky 38-28 Oct. 5; neither of those wins are particularly impressive, but hey, applaud Tennessee-Martin for its undefeated start, especially considering the tough part of the conference is still coming up, and the Skyhawks have not been great on offense.  

Likely, however, by the end of the season Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri will be the biggest challengers to Jacksonville State’s crown, and in perfect timing, the two teams play each other Saturday.  

Austin Peay is coming off its bye week and Southeast Missouri is coming off a narrow 43-37 win against a surprisingly tough Tennessee Tech team.  

You can be sure the Gamecocks will take note of the score from that one, as it will have big implications for the rest of the season.  


JJ’s Power Rankings: 

Austin Peay (3-2, 1-0 OVC) 

Jacksonville State (3-2, 1-1 OVC) 

Southeast Missouri (3-2, 1-0 OVC) 

Tennessee-Martin (3-2, 2-0 OVC) 

Eastern Kentucky (3-3, 1-1 OVC) 

Tennessee Tech (4-2, 1-1 OVC) 

Murray State (3-3, 1-1 OVC) 

Tennessee State (1-5, 0-2 OVC) 

Eastern (0-6, 0-2 OVC) 


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