seven six SEC teams playing FCS, week two has replaced the penultimate week of the season for this year’s SEC-FCS challenge. So let’s fire up the oven to take a look at the cupcakes coming out of the bakery as these SEC teams will look to put the game away early, get plenty of young or squad players playing time and hope to stay healthy.
Chattanooga at LSU
LSU leads series 1-0
7:30 p.m. EDT
For the first time since 1954, the Mocs travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. The 1954 meeting was a 26-19 victory for LSU in front of 11,000 fans during Gaynell Tinsley’s last season as LSU head coach.
Chattanooga enters this week as the highest ranked FCS team faced by an SEC team this week as they are ranked 14th in the latest FCS coaches poll despite a loss to Jacksonville State two weeks ago in Montgomery, Ala. Sagarin ranks the Mocs 139th which places them in the neighborhood of Coastal Carolina, Rice, Buffalo or Florida Atlantic.
After facing Alabama last November in their regular season finale, LSU is the second SEC team faced by Chattanooga in three regular season games. Alabama won that game 31-3, but Chattanooga will be traveling to Baton Rouge with a new head coach as former Indianapolis Colts backup quarterback Tom Arth takes over the reigns at Finley Stadium.
UT Martin at Ole Miss
Ole Miss leads series 1-0
The Skyhawks of UT Martin make the 158 mile trek southward to take on Ole Miss in a rematch of 2015’s season opener for both teams. The Rebels won that meeting 76-3 behind 662 yards of total offense as Chad Kelly made his Ole Miss debut.
UT Martin opened their 2017 campaign with a 36-0 victory over Clarion (Penn.) in which they limited Division II foe Clarion to 146 offensive yards and held them from converting a single third or fourth down conversion. Ladarius Galloway, a junior college transfer from Co-Lin Community College in Mississippi and a native of Indianola, Miss. led the Skyhawks with 157 yards on 17 carries in their season opener.
Despite road losses at FBS teams Cincinnati, Hawaii and Georgia State in 2016, UT Martin finished the season 7-5 including a five point loss on the road at Hawaii. For 2017, the Skyhawks were picked to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference behind Wofford and enter the Ole Miss matchup ranked 150th in Sagarin’s rankings.
Nicholls at Texas A&M
7 p.m. EDT
After Sunday’s heartbreaking, demoralizing (insert adjective of your choice here) loss at UCLA, Texas A&M returns to College Station for their home opener against Nicholls. The Aggies will be hosting thousands of victims, first responders and volunteers of Hurricane Harvey who were given free tickets to the game and is fundraising to aid in the relief efforts.
The Colonels travel west after a 37-35 win over in-state foe McNeese State. The home victory, snapping an eight game losing streak in the series, came on a last second field goal. That win rose Nicholls in this week’s FCS coaches poll to the fifth team in the “Others Receiving Votes,” category. The Colonels come into the Texas A&M game ranked 180th in Sagarin’s ratings.
Last year, Nicholls gave Georgia a scare the second week of the season as Georgia escaped with a 26-24 win as the Colonels rallied from a 26-14 fourth quarter deficit. Nicholls returns sophomore quarterback Chase Fourcade who started all 11 games as a true freshman and accounted for 27 total touchdowns. Fourcade is the son of former Ole Miss linebacker Keith Fourcade and his uncle is former Rebel quarterback John Fourcade.
Indiana State at Tennessee
4 p.m. EDT
Coming off a short week of preparation following their Monday night game against Georgia Tech, Tennessee hosts Indiana State Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium in the first matchup for the Sycamores against an SEC team since 1995.
Dating back to Oct. 29, 2016, Indiana State’s offense has been held under 300 yards for four consecutive games. Under a new coaching staff which is shifting a pro-style offense, the Sycamores struggled to move the ball in a two point loss to Eastern Illinois in their season opener. The passing game, in particular, had difficulties last week as two different quarterbacks combined to go 7/19 for 133 yards. Senior running back Lemonte Booker paced Indiana State with 165 rushing yards on 31 carries in the loss.
Thursday evening, Tennessee coach Butch Jones said that redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano would get some playing time. The playing time would be the first for the consensus four-star recruit. Suspended left tackle Drew Richmond returns for Tennessee and will draw his first playing time of the season.
Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky
Kentucky leads series 4-0
There’s an alternate history timeline where Kentucky loses to Eastern Kentucky in 2015 instead of winning in overtime like they did, leading to the Kentucky General Assembly personally funding a buyout of Mark Stoops’s contract. Instead, the Wildcats prevailed, avoiding what would have been a nadir for the Kentucky Football program.
Two years later, Kentucky is as strong as it has been since the bygone days of Rich Brooks, Andre Woodson, et al. They’re a team on the upswing, 1-0 following last week’s win over Southern Miss (another team that humiliated the Wildcats in the past few seasons).
Kentucky’s offense looked a tad bit off in this season’s matchup with the Golden Eagles, as their oft-successful wildcat formation didn’t quite possess the teeth it did last year. Perhaps it was just first game jitters, but in this Saturday’s home opener against an FCS squad, Kentucky is expected to kick it up a notch.
Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt
4 p.m. EDT
After an easier than expected victory at Middle Tennessee State to open the season, Vanderbilt’s home opener is against Alabama. Oh, sorry, not the Crimson Tide, the Alabama A&M Bulldogs. The Bulldogs opened their season with a loss at (the resurrected) UAB by a 38-7 margin.
Not to slight Alabama A&M, but this game should be handily over by the end of the first quarter. The Bulldogs struggled to move the ball against UAB, averaging 1.4 yards per rush and gave 282 rushing yards. They enter the game as the 245th ranked team in Sagarin’s ratings (out of 254 teams rated).
Alabama A&M ended their 2016 campaign at Auburn with a 55-0 loss. The Bulldogs posted 130 offensive yards while giving up 451 rushing yards. Previously their last SEC matchup was also against Auburn in 2012.