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2023 MAC Football Week 4 Game Preview: Eastern Michigan Eagles at Jacksonville State Gamecocks

The Eagles travel south to face off against the newcomer Gamecocks for a first-ever meeting.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Abilene Christian at Jacksonville State Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Eagles travel down to Jacksonville, Alabama where they will face the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. This is the Gamecocks’ first season in Conference USA. This is also the first meeting between Eastern Michigan and Jacksonville State. We will see a familiar face at kickoff, as JSU is in the second year of their Rich Rodriguez era.

Rodriguez is famously the former coach of the Michigan Wolverines, and is responsible for Michigan’s only loss to a MAC team, with his 2008 squad falling to Toledo 13-10 at the Big House.

The Eagles under Chris Creighton hope to welcome JSU to the FBS level with a rollicking result.

Game Notes

  • Time and date: Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 at 5 p.m. Eastern time
  • Network: ESPN+ (A valid subscription is required for viewing.)
  • Location: JSU Stadium in Jacksonville, Alabama
  • Gambling considerations: JSU is a 6.5-point favorite, with an over/under of 52.5, per DraftKings.
  • All-time series: First meeting

Getting to know the Gamecocks

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Abilene Christian at Jacksonville State Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Gamecocks are 2-1 with their loss against Tim Beck’s Coastal Carolina squad. Over their three games, they have averaged 27.33 points. On the ground, they have gained an average of 210 yards per game, and they get an average of 134 yards per game in the air.

Quarterback duties are split between Zion Webb, who averages 72 yards per game on a completion rate of 48.7 percent and Logan Smothers, who passes for an average of 61 yards per game on 74 percent completion.

The bulk of the rushing yards are taken by Malik Jackson, who averages 83 yards per game and he is backed up by Ron Wiggins with 52 yards per game. Receiving yards are split between multiple receivers with Perry Carter at the top with an average of 29 yards per game.

On defense, the Gamecocks give up an average 15.67 points per game. They have only allowed 124 yards on the ground and 198 yards in the air on average. They have had three fumble recoveries and three interceptions, and average a little over two sacks per game.

Getting to know the Eagles

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 UMass at Eastern Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Eagles have averaged 19.3 points per game and are also 2-1 with their loss coming against the Minnesota Gophers. They have averaged 134 yards per game in the air and 135 yards on the ground.

They are led by quarterback Austin Smith who has a 55 percent completion rate with two touchdowns and two interceptions. On the ground, they are led by Samson Evans who averages 71 yards per game, with Jaylon Jackson a cange-of-pace back capable of springing big plays. The Eagles leading receiver is Tanner Knue with 39 yards per game.

On defense, the Eagles have allowed 22 points per game. They have also allowed 206 yards per game on the ground and 217 yards per game in the air. They have four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. They also have recorded eight sacks.

I think the key to this game for the Eagles is for them to get their passing game going. So far, Austin Smith’s average pass has gone for 9.8 yards per completion, with the longest pass going for 50 yards. I know that he is capable of more. They will have to execute better in both the passing and run games if they want to win this game. Between Evans and Jackson, I know they are more capable of gaining more yards per game as long as they don’t fumble, which was a major issue in last week’s game vs. UMass.

That being said, I think this is a winnable game for the Eagles. They have to play a nearly perfect game and if they can force some turnovers, they will win. I am loathe to make a score prediction, but I will say it will be close. Probably within a field goal.