Q: Is a big game from running back (and Auburn transfer) Roc Thomas Jacksonville State’s best chance for an upset?
A: Yes, but then again, having a big year from Thomas is important to Jacksonville State’s hopes of winning the Ohio Valley Conference for a fourth straight time. Thomas is healthy, and when he is, he’s an awfully explosive runner. It’s interesting to speculate what he would’ve done had he remained at Auburn.
Q: Where are the Gamecocks most susceptible?
A: Obviously, it’s the scholarship limitations. FCS schools have a limit of 63 scholarships compared to 85 for FBS programs. It might seem as if 63 is plenty when you can have only 11 on the field at one time, but Jacksonville State, like many other programs these days, likes to rotate plenty of people in the game, especially on defense. The Gamecocks have fewer people to rotate in and out than an FBS team.
Q: The Jacksonville State defense was fourth in total defense last year in FCS and first in defensive third-down efficiency. Who and what makes that unit work?
A: It’s a senior-dominated group, and I could name 10 to 12 players who are important keys, but I’ll limit it to three — defensive end Darius Jackson, linebacker Joel McCandless and safety Marlon Bridges. Jackson is a bit smaller than an FBS defensive end, but he holds the school record for most career yards on tackles behind the line. McCandless is the consummate leader and probably Jacksonville State’s most enthusiastic player. Bridges led the team in tackles last year, and I’m sure he’ll enjoy testing himself against a Georgia Tech running game that is one of the best in the nation.