Previewing OVC football with season set to begin

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Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern freshman safety Josh St. Preux runs a drill with a teammate during practice on Aug. 20.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

The football season is set to begin Saturday when Eastern takes on Indiana State in a Week 0 matchup.

The rest of the OVC will then begin playing games the following week.

The OVC is two teams smaller than it was in the spring, with Eastern Kentucky and perennial powerhouse Jacksonville State leaving to join the ASUN Conference. 

With the offseason entering its final days, it is time to take a look at each OVC team, where they finished last season.

Going in order of the preseason poll results, Murray State is picked to top the OVC. 

The Racers finished 5-2 last season and in second place, trailing 6-1 Jacksonville State. These two teams were tied when they faced off in the season’s final game, with the Gamecocks winning to claim the conference title. 

Murray State redshirt-freshman running back Damonta Witherspoon was third in the conference in rushing yards last season, averaging 73.3 yards per game. 

Also back for the Racers this season is cornerback Marcis Floyd, whose 3 interceptions were tied for the most in the OVC last season. 

There was a tie in the preseason poll between Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri for the second spot, last season’s third and fourth place finishers respectively. 

Austin Peay had to OVC’s top scoring offense last season, averaging 29.7 points per game, while Southeast Missouri’s offense ranked third with 29.1 points per game. 

Austin Peay quarterback Draylen Ellis led the OVC with 14 touchdown passes last season while throwing just 4 interceptions. Southeast Missouri running back Geno Hess led the conference with 11 rushing touchdowns, five more than the next-closest player. 

Predicted fourth place finisher Tennessee Martin rode its defense to a 3-4 finish last season, allowing 22 points per game to ranks second in the conference. 

They will be without quarterback John Bachus this season, who led the conference in passing yards last season with 1,697 yards, averaging 242.4 yards per game. 

Tennessee State finished last season 2-5 and are picked to finish fifth this season. 

A pair of running backs, one active and one former, will look to lead the Tigers to more success this season. 

The active running back is Devon Starling, who led the conference with 624 rushing yards last season as a freshman. 

The former running back is ex-NFL star Eddie George, who is entering his first season as head coach for Tennessee State. 

Tennessee Tech finish last season at 2-5 as well, with trouble scoring being an issue for them. 

They averaged 20 points per game, the second-fewest in the conference. 

Eastern finished last season 1-6. Standing out for the Panthers was linebacker Jason Johnson, who led the OVC in tackles per game with 11, ranking ninth in the FCS. 

After starting three games at quarterback last season, Otto Kuhns was named the starter to open the season. 

Several OVC teams have nonconference games scheduled against SEC teams this season, with Eastern playing South Carolina, Austin Peay playing Ole Miss, Southeast Missouri playing Missouri and Tennessee Tech playing Tennessee. 

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]