(STATS) - There were so many positives about Jacksonville State's 2014 season, including a perfect record in the Ohio Valley Conference, record-setting numbers and numerous individual accolades.

But the Gamecocks have spent the offseason - a long one, at that - trying to get rid of the bad taste left in their mouths.

And there really won't be another possible rinsing until December.

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By then, the 24-team FCS playoffs will be underway, and Jacksonville State hopes to make amends for last season's loss at home as the No. 3 seed playing in its first game. Granted, the defeat came against eventual national semifinalist Sam Houston State, but it doesn't matter to the Gamecocks because they envisioned being the ones to get that far.

"We didn't make our team goals," JSU coach John Grass said, "so this team is hungry to get back to that point and, hopefully, we'll be able to do that and do something a little better with an opportunity we're given when we make the playoffs."

Jacksonville State returns 44 lettermen and 16 starters from the team which had a 10-game winning streak before the playoff loss, and there's enough talent to envision another undefeated run in the OVC.

Except the Gamecocks can't get caught looking ahead - as much as thoughts of the playoffs will tempt them.

"It's a return league," Grass said. "We've got a lot of folks who have a lot of people back, so you're going to see a lot of great games in the OVC this year."

Only Tennessee State suffered overwhelming senior losses, and conference powers Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky are standing on Jacksonville State's doorstep.

The Gamecocks, it turns out, aren't the only team with playoff goals.

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PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH=

1. Jacksonville State

2. Eastern Illinois

3. Eastern Kentucky

4. Southeast Missouri

5. UT Martin

6. Tennessee State

7. Murray State

8. Tennessee Tech

9. Austin Peay

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TEAM CAPSULES=

1. JACKSONVILLE STATE GAMECOCKS

LOCATION: Jacksonville, Alabama

STADIUM: JSU Stadium

COACH: John Grass (10-2 in one season at Jacksonville State)

LAST SEASON: 10-2 overall, 8-0 OVC (1st)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (9 offense/7 defense)

KEY LOSSES: RB DaMarcus James, C Max Holcombe, DL Caleb Lawrence, LB Ben Endress, LB Michael Carlisle

OFFENSIVE STAR: Eli Jenkins, QB, Jr., 6-3, 200 (127-for-222, 1,870 yards, 12 TDs, 9 INTs; 132 carries, 698 yards, 6 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Devaunte Sigler, DT, Sr., 6-5, 292 (36 TT, 9 TFL, 3.5 SK, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 2 FF, 1 BLK)

KEY PLAYERS: Troymaine Pope, RB, Sr., 5-10, 202; Miles Jones, RB, Sr., 5-10, 208; Josh Clemons, RB, Sr., 5-10, 223; Josh Barge, WR, Jr., 6-1, 172; Ruben Gonzalez, WR, Sr., 6-4, 190; Anthony Johnson, WR, Jr., 6-4, 197; Markis Merrill, WR, Sr., 6-1, 189; Bo Brummel, TE, Sr., 6-3, 240; Justin Lea, OT, So., 6-4, 275; Adam Wright, OG, Sr., 6-4, 293; Kyron Samuels, OG, Sr., 6-2, 320; Casey Dunn, C, Jr., 6-3, 285; LaMichael Fanning, DE, Sr., 6-7, 281; Chris Landrum, DE, Sr., 6-3, 263; Dawson Wells, LB, Sr., 6-1, 217; Jermaine Hough, CB, Sr., 5-10, 180; DeBarriaus Miller, S, Sr., 6-0, 190; Folo Johnson, S, Sr., 6-0, 182; Hamish MacInnes, P, Sr., 6-1, 178

OUTLOOK: The Gamecocks are favored to claim their second straight and fifth overall OVC championship, having gone an impressive 72-23 since joining the conference in 2003. This is one of their more talented squads as they placed 12 players on the OVC preseason team while no other team had more than four representatives. Sigler, the 2014 OVC defensive player of the year, has competition from linemate Fanning for this year's award, and Landrum is the third OVC preseason pick from a D-line that could dominate opponents. On the back end of the defense, Hough is one of the nation's premier cornerbacks. The offense was among the best in the FCS last season (510.8 yards per game) and will be potent again despite the loss of James (3,553 career rushing yards, 50 total touchdowns). Pope, Jones and dynamic QB Jenkins all rushed for over 600 yards, and, like the D-line, there are three OVC preseason picks on the O-line - Dunn, Lea and Wright - plus TE Brummel. The Gamecocks even bring back their leading receiver in Barge (56 receptions, 919 yards). As big as Grass' debut season was last year, the Gamecocks didn't win an FCS playoff game (after winning two in 2013), so they have spent the offseason disappointed about it. They want a deep postseason run this year.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Chattanooga

Sept. 12 - at Auburn

Sept. 19 - vs. Tennessee State*

Sept. 26 - at UT Martin*

Oct. 3 - vs. Mississippi Valley State

Oct. 17 - at Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 24 - at Austin Peay*

Oct. 31 - vs. Eastern Kentucky*

Nov. 7 - at Eastern Illinois*

Nov. 14 - vs. Southeast Missouri State*

Nov. 21 - vs. Murray State*

* - OVC game

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2. EASTERN ILLINOIS PANTHERS

LOCATION: Charleston, Illinois

STADIUM: O'Brien Stadium

COACH: Kim Dameron (5-7 in one season at Eastern Illinois)

LAST SEASON: 5-7 overall, 5-3 OVC (2nd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

KEY LOSSES: WR Adam Drake, TE Jeff LePak, OG Collin Seibert, C Nick Borre, LB Robert Hayes, LB Adam Gristick

OFFENSIVE STAR: Jalen Whitlow, QB, Sr., 6-2, 220 (185-for-294, 2,075 yards, 15 TDs, 7 INTs; 140 carries, 792 yards, 12 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB, Sr., 6-2, 215 (97 TT, 9.5 TFL, 1.5 SK, 3 INT, 3 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FR, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Shepard Little, RB, Sr., 5-10, 197; Devin Church, RB, Jr., 5-8, 190 (Illinois transfer); Korliss Marshall, RB, Jr., 6-0, 205 (Arkansas transfer); Anthony Taylor, WR, Jr., 6-0, 187; Louis Vailopa, C, So., 6-3, 310; Jimmy Lowery, OT, Jr., 6-4, 290; Evan Kanz, OG, Jr., 6-5, 310; Dino Fanti, DT, Sr., 6-1, 265; Fedney Delphonse, LB, Sr., 6-3, 245; Jourdan Wickliffe, S, Sr., 6-1, 200; Vince Speller, S, So., 6-1, 195; Bradley Dewberry, S, So., 6-0, 196; Anthony Goodman, CB, Sr., 5-9, 185; Antonie Johnson, CB, Sr., 5-10, 172; Nick Bruno, PK/P, So., 6-1, 170

OUTLOOK: The Panthers hope to "run" right back into the national picture after a subpar season. Having won 12 games and been ranked as high as No. 2 in 2013 - with QB Jimmy Garoppolo leading the way - they started 1-5 in Dameron's first season a year ago. But they expect to rebound as their strong running game led by RB Little (797 yards, but 1,551 in 2013) and QB Whitlow (792 yards) welcomes in FBS transfers Marshall (Arkansas) and Church (Illinois). Whitlow will have to find new passing targets as Taylor (23 receptions) is the only regular returning after the Panthers lost the OVC's top receiver for a second consecutive season - this time Drake. With Fanti (DT), Grugier-Hill (LB) and Wickliffe (S), the defense has an All-OVC talent in each unit, so they should be improved there. The first half of the OVC schedule isn't particularly daunting for the Panthers, who figure to be in the title race when they reach a tough season-ending stretch of Jacksonville State, UT Martin and Eastern Kentucky.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3 - at Western Illinois

Sept. 12 - at Northwestern

Sept. 19 - vs. Illinois State

Oct. 3 - at Austin Peay*

Oct. 10 - vs. Southeast Missouri State*

Oct. 17 - at Tennessee State*

Oct. 24 - vs. Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 31 - at Murray State*

Nov. 7 - vs. Jacksonville State*

Nov. 14 - at UT Martin*

Nov. 21 - vs. Eastern Kentucky*

* - OVC game

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3. EASTERN KENTUCKY COLONELS

LOCATION: Richmond, Kentucky

STADIUM: Roy Kidd Stadium

COACH: Dean Hood (49-33 in seven seasons at Eastern Kentucky)

LAST SEASON: 9-4 overall, 6-2 OVC (2nd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Jared McClain, C Dustin Crane, LB Tyrelle Johnson, DB Brandon Stanley, PK Andrew Lloyd

OFFENSIVE STAR: Dy'Shawn Mobley, RB, Sr., 5-11, 215 (258 carries, 1,491 yards, 20 TDs; 33 receptions, 309 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Stanley Absanon, CB, Sr., 5-11, 185 (56 TT, 1.5 TFL, 4 INTs, 9 PBU, 1 BLK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Bennie Coney, QB, R-Jr., 6-2, 215; Kentayvus Hopkins, RB, R-So., 5-10, 190; Adam Lane, RB, R-So., 5-7, 224 (Florida transfer); Devin Borders, WR, R-Jr., 6-5, 220; Jeff Glover, WR, Sr., 6-4, 200; Brett Eyckmans, LT, Sr., 6-4, 290; Chance Edwards, LG, R-So., 6-5, 340; Trey Shelton, RG, Sr., 6-4, 300; Colton Scurry, C, R-Jr., 6-2, 285; Noah Spence, DE, R-Jr., 6-3, 255 (Ohio State transfer); Patrick Graffree, DT, R-Jr., 6-4, 295; Avery Pitt, DT, R-Jr., 6-3, 290; Bryce Krebs, DT, R-Sr., 6-1, 301; Marquise Piton, LB, Sr., 6-2, 200; Jeffrey Canady, LB, R-So., 5-11, 225; Deno Montgomery, CB, R-Sr., 5-10, 195; Kiante Northington, S, R-Jr., 5-9, 185; Keith Wrzuszczak, P, So., 5-11, 194

OUTLOOK: The most successful program in OVC history is ready to challenge for another title. The Colonels return eight starters on each side of the ball after making their 21st all-time FCS playoff appearance (second only to Montana). In his first season after transferring from Kentucky, RB Mobley was named the OVC offensive player of the year, gaining 1,800 yards from scrimmage with 21 touchdowns. He's the focal point of the offense again, although former Florida RB Lane has joined the picture after a recent transfer. Coney, at quarterback, hopes to be improved with the return of the team's top receivers. The Colonels are always strong at the line of scrimmage, and this year, they add another top transfer in DE Spence, a 2013 All-Big Ten first-team pick at Ohio State. Losing Stanley is huge, but the entire secondary was opportunistic last season as the defense forced 33 turnovers (second-most in the FCS). Absanon is a shutdown cornerback who makes the work up front easier for his teammates. A night of altercations with Kentucky players this past winter has put a spotlight on the teams' non-conference meeting Oct. 3.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3 - vs. Valparaiso

Sept. 12 - at North Carolina State

Sept. 26 - vs. Austin Peay*

Oct. 3 - at Kentucky

Oct. 10 - vs. Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 17 - at Southeast Missouri State*

Oct. 24 - vs. Tennessee State*

Oct. 31 - at Jacksonville State*

Nov. 7 - vs. UT Martin*

Nov. 14 - at Murray State*

Nov. 21 - at Eastern Illinois*

* - OVC game

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4. SOUTHEAST MISSOURI REDHAWKS

LOCATION: Cape Girardeau, Missouri

STADIUM: Houck Stadium

COACH: Tom Matukewicz (5-7 in one season at Southeast Missouri State; 6-7 overall)

LAST SEASON: 5-7 overall, 3-5 OVC (Tie/6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Kyle Snyder, WR/RS Spencer Davis, OT Corey Porter, LB Wisler Ymonice, CB Tim Hamm-Bey

OFFENSIVE STAR: Paul McRoberts, WR, Sr., 6-3, 197 (44 receptions, 711 yards, 9 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Roper Garrett, ILB, Jr., 6-1, 234 (96 TT, 8.5 TFL, 3 SK, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 5 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Tae Bender, QB, Jr., 6-4, 220 (Iowa Western C.C. transfer); Alex Niznak, QB, Sr., 6-2, 240; DeMichael Jackson, RB, Sr., 5-10, 190; Adrian Davis, WR, So., 6-3, 190; Peter Lloyd, WR, Sr., 5-7, 166; Garret Baker, LG, Jr., 6-2, 280; Traven Mable, RG, Sr., 6-2, 308; Jake McCandless, C, Jr., 6-0, 297; Austin Black, DE, Jr., 5-11, 236; Marlon Hampton, NT, Jr., 6-2, 314; Travis Sanders, DT, Sr., 6-3, 262; Jon Slania, DT, Sr., 6-1, 281; Selwyn Carrol, DE, Jr., 6-1, 254; Terrance Hill, LB, Jr., 6-0, 215; Eriq Moore, SS, Jr., 5-10, 202; David Coley, FS, Sr., 6-2, 196; Ryan McCrum, PK, Jr., 6-0, 228; Alex Knight, P, Jr., 6-1, 199

OUTLOOK: SEMO is a potential breakout candidate after last year's encouraging season, which included an eye-catching upset of Southeastern Louisiana from the Southland Conference. In his second season guiding the Redhawks, Matukewicz carries a brick-by-brick approach to laying a winning foundation. The pieces for success are there. Offensively, the Redhawks have big-time weapons in WR McRoberts, who is coming off a foot injury that limited him to seven games, RB Jackson (734 yards in only eight games) and McCrum, who kicked a school-record 18 field goals last season and was the only FCS placekicker to have four from at least 50 yards. But the Redhawks also will break in a new quarterback, likely JUCO transfer Bender over Niznak, a 2014 transfer from Central Michigan. The defense needs to be more opportunistic in creating sacks and turnovers. Roper Garrett is the standout at middle linebacker, backed on the depth chart by younger brother Rider. Third-year starter Hampton is primed for a banner junior season at nose tackle. With Tennessee State in a season in which it is playing an extra non-conference game, it leaves SEMO as the other OVC team with only seven conference matchups.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Missouri

Sept. 12 - vs. Southern Illinois

Sept. 19 - at Indiana State

Sept. 26 - vs. Shorter

Oct. 3 - vs. Murray State*

Oct. 10 - at Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 17 - vs. Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 31 - vs. Tennessee Tech*

Nov. 7 - at Austin Peay*

Nov. 14 - at Jacksonville State*

Nov. 21 - vs. UT Martin*

* - OVC game

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5. UT MARTIN SKYHAWKS

LOCATION: Martin, Tennessee

STADIUM: Graham Stadium

COACH: Jason Simpson (58-45 in nine seasons at UT Martin)

LAST SEASON: 6-6 overall, 5-3 OVC (Tie/3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

KEY LOSSES: RB Abou Toure, OT Charles Sweeton, OT Matt Axline, DE Ryan Isom, LB Devontay Barnett, LB Tony Bell, LB Deilouse Jackson

OFFENSIVE STAR: Jarod Neal, QB, R-Sr., 6-1, 191 (158-for-249, 1,880 yards, 14 TDs, 6 INTs; 57 carries, 219 yards, 6 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Nick Dance, LB, R-Sr., 5-11, 210

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Troy Cook, QB, R-So., 6-2, 207 (Florida State transfer); Trent Garland, RB, R-Sr., 5-9, 180; Ben Axline, WR, R-Sr., 6-3, 185; Kyle Kerrick, WR, Jr., 6-3, 190; William Tanner, WR, R-Sr., 6-0, 184; James Ratliff, TE, R-Sr., 6-0, 225; Malcolm Faciane, TE, R-Sr., 6-5, 265 (Alabama transfer); Jordan Murphy, OG, R-Sr., 6-3, 280; Jackson Roberts, LG, R-Sr., 6-7, 300; Deantae Glover, DE, Sr., 6-1, 240; Keith Jones, NT, Jr., 6-1, 300; Jay Murphy, NT, So., 6-4, 335; Tyler Sweeden, LB, Jr., 6-3, 220; Ervin Alston, LB, Jr., 6-2, 220 (UAB transfer); Walter Evans, S, R-Sr., 5-11, 175; Taino Fears-Perez, S, R-Sr., 5-8, 167; Marquis Clemons, S, Sr., 5-11, 175; Kahlid Hagens, S, So., 6-3, 189; Jordan Landry, DB, Sr., 5-8, 165; Aaron Simms, DB, R-Sr, 5-10, 160; Jackson Redditt, PK, R-Sr., 6-2, 190

OUTLOOK: The Skyhawks brought momentum into this past offseason after winning five of their final six games. Their senior losses were significant, including 1,100-yard rusher Toure, All-American LB Bell and four of the five starting offensive linemen, so they have brought in some transfers. Neal will have to take his play to a higher level in directing the offense, which returns enough wide receivers, led by Tanner, to keep opponents from loading up in the box. While the defense has to improve against the pass, the unit should be balanced. There are plenty of senior leaders, with Dance ready to make more of a name for himself at linebacker and DE Glover set to be a pass rusher. The Skyhawks have two SEC opponents on their schedule again, but the OVC race remains their focal point. They have never slipped below .500 in conference play under Simpson, who enters his 10th season.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Ole Miss

Sept. 10 - vs. Bethel

Sept. 26 - vs. Jacksonville State*

Oct. 3 - at Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 10 - vs. Tennessee State*

Oct. 17 - at Austin Peay*

Oct. 24 - vs. Murray State*

Oct. 31 - at Arkansas

Nov. 7 - at Eastern Kentucky*

Nov. 14 - vs. Eastern Illinois*

Nov. 21 - at Southeast Missouri State*

* - OVC game

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6. TENNESSEE STATE TIGERS

LOCATION: Nashville, Tennessee

STADIUM: LP Field and Hale Stadium

COACH: Rod Reed (32-27 in five seasons at Tennessee State)

LAST SEASON: 6-6 overall, 3-5 OVC (Tie/6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 8 (5 offense/3 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Mike German, WR Weldon Garlington, OG Robert Myers, OT Anthony Morris, DE Anthony Bass, DT Samquan Evans, LB Nick Thrasher, CB De'Ante Saunders, S Daniel Fitzpatrick

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Ronald Butler, Jr., 6-3, 180 (40-for-77, 420 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Gabe Terry, DE, Sr., 6-2, 215 (24 TT, 11.5 SK, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: O'Shay Ackerman-Carter, QB, R-Fr., 6-2, 215; Tom Smith, RB, R-Sr., 5-11, 205; Telvin Hooks, RB, R-Sr., 5-10, 200; Isaiah Jeffries-Freeman, WR, R-Jr., 6-1, 188; Chris Sanders-McCollum, WR, Jr., 6-5, 190; Joshawn Bowens, TE, Sr., 6-5, 240; Joe Bowens, TE, Sr., 6-5, 240; Shaq Anthony, LT, R-Sr., 6-5, 290; Jesaman Dunker, LG, R-Jr., 6-5, 290; Kevin Kenton, C, R-Jr., 6-2, 300; Duaron Williams, RG, R-Jr., 6-3, 315; Rodney Edwards, DT, Jr., 6-2, 305; Vann Williams, LB, R-Jr., 6-1, 215; Antonio Justice, LB, R-Jr., 6-1, 225; Bernell Brooks, CB, R-Sr., 6-0, 183; Ezra Robinson, CB, R-Jr., 6-1, 180; Terrell Bonds, CB, So., 5-9, 176; Javon Brandon, So., 5-10, 195; Lane Clark, PK, So., 5-11, 170

OUTLOOK: No OVC team lost as many key seniors as the Tigers, and stretching back another season, their offensive line has surrendered up four selections to the past two NFL drafts. The defense was hit the hardest as only one of the top eight players in tackles (LB Williams) is back this year. There is plenty of young talent in the secondary which is now led by CB Brooks, and DE Terry is coming off a season with 11.5 sacks. TSU got away from running the ball last season as German became the school's all-time leader in passing yards, but Butler is highly experienced, having played in 19 games over the past two seasons and even earning All-OVC second-team honors as a freshman in 2013. Ackerman-Carter is more of a pocket passer like German, so he factors into the position as well. Smith and Hooks will be asked to jump-start the run game in their final season. Under Reed, the Tigers have posted three straight .500-or-better seasons, which previously hadn't been done in 18 years.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 6 - vs. Alabama State

Sept. 12 - at Jackson State (at Memphis, Tennessee)

Sept. 19 - at Jacksonville State*

Sept. 26 - at Florida A&M

Oct. 10 - at UT Martin*

Oct. 17 - vs. Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 24 - at Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 31 - vs. Austin Peay*

Nov. 7 - vs. Murray State*

Nov. 21 - at Tennessee Tech*

* - OVC game

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7. MURRAY STATE RACERS

LOCATION: Murray, Kentucky

STADIUM: Roy Stewart Stadium

COACH: Mitch Stewart (first season at Murray State)

LAST SEASON: 3-9 overall, 1-7 OVC (Tie/8th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

KEY LOSSES: WR Nevar Griffin, OL Kamalie Matthews, DE Felton Collins, LB Anthony Hayes, LB Travis Taylor

OFFENSIVE STAR: KD Humphries, QB, R-Jr., 6-3, 225 (319-for-473, 3,488 yards, 27 TDs, 12 INTs; 92 carries, 195 yards, 7 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Jonathan Jackson, OLB, Jr., 5-11, 211 (134 TT, 8 TFL, 2.5 SK, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Pokey Harris, RB/KR, Sr., 510, 173; Marcus Holliday, RB, Jr., 5-10, 186; Jeremy Harness, WR, Sr., 5-8, 185; Janawski Davis, WR, Sr. 5-7, 164; Jesse Blackburn, TE/WR, Jr., 6-3, 240; Corey Gammon, C, Sr., 6-2, 272; Hunter Kingston, LG, Sr., 6-1, 301; Robert Olive, RG, Sr., 6-3, 320; Chris White, RT, Fr. 6-3, 310; Elijah Daniel, DL, Jr., 6-2, 282 (Auburn transfer); Demetrius Mason, NG, Sr., 6-4, 308; Bishop Woods, DT, So., 6-4, 253; Zuri Elrington, DE, Jr., 6-3, 240 (West Los Angeles C.C. transfer); Zach Dean, DE, Sr., 6-4, 257; DeQuinten Spraggins, S, Sr., 6-2, 187; D'Montre Wade, CB, R-So, 6-0, 192; Carson Greifenhamp, PK, Sr., 6-0, 173; Wes Drewery, LS, So., 6-3, 230

OUTLOOK: Stewart spent the last five seasons at Murray State under former coach Chris Hatcher, including four as offensive coordinator. He's built strong passing attacks and that will continue with Humphries, who led the OVC in completions (319), passing yards (3,483), touchdown passes (27) and total offense (306.5 ypg) last season. In Harness and Davis, the Racers return two wideouts who combined to catch 144 passes for 1,816 yards and 19 touchdowns. But there's also a breakaway threat in the backfield with Harris, who is arguably the best kickoff returner in the FCS. Stewart is stressing that his team will become more physical, especially after it allowed 511.2 yards and 42.5 points per game. The defensive leader is Jackson, whose 12.3 tackles per game ranked fourth in the FCS. The Racers must re-establish the pass rush after losing Taylor and Collins, so Daniel is a big addition from Auburn. Their OVC schedule is backloaded with the top teams, meaning the Racers need to come out flying to have a turnaround.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3 - vs. Kentucky Wesleyan

Sept. 12 - at Northern Illinois

Sept. 19 - at Western Michigan

Sept. 26 - vs. Tennessee Tech*

Oct. 3 - at Southeast Missouri State*

Oct. 10 - vs. Austin Peay*

Oct. 24 - at UT Martin*

Oct. 31 - vs. Eastern Illinois*

Nov. 7 - at Tennessee State*

Nov. 14 - vs. Eastern Kentucky*

Nov. 21 - at Jacksonville State*

* - OVC game

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8. TENNESSEE TECH GOLDEN EAGLES

LOCATION: Cookeville, Tennessee

STADIUM: Tucker Stadium

COACH: Watson Brown (47-45 in eight seasons at Tennessee Tech; 132-203-1 overall)

LAST SEASON: 5-7 overall, 4-4 OVC (5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QW Darian Stone, WR Cody Mattews, DE Midoho Okpokowuruk, SS Austin Tallant, S Marty Jones

OFFENSIVE STAR: Ladarius Vanlier, A-Back/RS, Sr., 5-8, 175 (89 carries, 494 yards, 5 TDs; 14.4-yard punt return average)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Tra'Darius Goff, LB, R-Sr., 5-11, 240 (injured last season)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Jared Davis, QB, Jr., 6-4, 220; Dorian Carter, RB, R-Fr., 5-11, 181; Radir Annoor, Sr., 5-11, 200; Krys Cates, WR, R-Jr., 6-3, 215; Brock McCoin, WR, So., 6-0, 185; Dametris Watson, TE, R-So., 6-3, 252; William Chatmon, LT, Jr., 6-3, 290; Tyler Coen, LG, So., 6-3, 305; Jibrin Linge, RG, Sr., 6-3, 300; Kevin Robinson-White, DT, Jr., 6-2, 300; Terrell Rollins, NG, Jr., 6-0, 280; Jay Rudwall, LB, Sr., 6-2, 230; Trey Thompson, LB, So., 6-2, 235; Jordan Patrick, LB, Jr., 6-5, 230; Jimmy Laughlin, S, Sr., 6-3, 220; Malik Hall, CB, Jr., 5-10, 190; Jonathan King, P, So., 6-3, 180

OUTLOOK: Tech enjoyed a solid season last year (including a win over Eastern Kentucky) while unveiling its unique QW position, which utilizes a second quarterback during plays, often split wide of the center exchange. Despite the deception, the Golden Eagles still ranked second-to-last in the OVC in scoring offense (19.8 ppg) and total offense (277.1 ypg), and they've lost chief QW threat Stone. But QB Davis (70-for-138, 770 yards, 4 TDs, 7 INTs) returns as does McCoin, who played some QW last season. Vanlier also is an all-purpose talent who will trouble opponents. On defense, Tech gets back LB Goff, who has had two 100-tackle campaigns but missed last season with an injury. Last season, the Golden Eagles had three players reach 100 tackles, including LB Rudwall with 101. The Sgt. York Trophy is always important to the four OVC members in the state of Tennessee, and Tech will play its three games at home.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Houston

Sept. 12 - at Wofford

Sept. 19 - vs. Mercer

Sept. 26 - at Murray State*

Oct. 3 - vs. UT Martin*

Oct. 10 - at Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 17 - vs. Jacksonville State*

Oct. 24 - at Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 31 - at Southeast Missouri State*

Nov. 14 - vs. Austin Peay*

Nov. 21 - vs. Tennessee State*

* - OVC game

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9. AUSTIN PEAY GOVERNORS

LOCATION: Clarksville, Tennessee

STADIUM: Governors Stadium

COACH: Kirby Cannon (1-23 in two seasons at Austin Peay; 36-109 overall)

LAST SEASON: 1-11 overall, 1-7 OVC (Tie/8th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

KEY LOSSES: OG Nathan Sanders, C Isaiah Tuiasosopo, DT Malcolm Goines, S Johnathan Shuler, P Ben Campbell

OFFENSIVE STAR: Otis Gerron, RB, So., 5-11, 200 (112 carries, 596 yards, 2 TDs; 10 receptions, 114 yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Antonio Turner, LB, Jr., 6-2, 205 (81 TT, 7 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Trey Taylor, QB, R-Sr., 6-3, 215; Mickey Macius, QB, So., 6-3, 206; Darrien Boone, QB, So., 6-2, 196; Justin Roberson, RB, Jr., 5-10, 190; Rashaan Coleman, WR/RB, Jr., 5-7, 180; Wesley Thomas, WR, So., 6-0, 200; Jared Beard, WR, So., 6-2, 195; James Coleman, TE, So., 6-3, 272; Tyler Miles, OL, Sr., 6-3, 321; Bernard Gauldin, OL, Sr., 6-6, 307; Tyler Schneider, DE, So., 6-3, 233; Jule Pace, DE, So., 6-1, 248; Gino Roberson, DT, Sr., 6-2, 327; Nicholis Matiere-Bey, DT, So., 6-1, 270; Adam Noble, LB, Sr., 6-3, 225; Zach Stuart, LB, So., 6-2, 197; Benedict Louis, LB, So., 6-0, 230; Roderick Owens, CB, Jr., 5-10, 183; Malik Boynton, CB, So., 6-0, 182; Damien Whitfield, FS, Jr., 6-0, 175; David Wall, SS, So., 5-9, 190

OUTLOOK: A lone win over Murray State last season was the first in Cannon's first two campaigns. The Governors didn't have a large number of upperclassmen last season, and there were 17 sophomores on the two-deep for the final game. It all bodes well for this year, although the Governors were picked for last place in the OVC's preseason coaches poll. Macius (54-for-95, 530 yards, 5 TDs, 5 INTs) led the lone win as a true freshman and is battling for the starting quarterback spot with Taylor and Boone. Top rusher Gerron also came up big in his first season before he suffered a concussion. But the offense has to improve considerably after it converted only 24.7 percent of third downs, which led to an FCS-low scoring average (9.7 ppg). On defense, the Governors expect to have a better front seven, including big DT Roberson as an anchor in the middle and Turner scooping up tackles from behind at linebacker. The defense generated only seven sacks last season.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - vs. Mercer

Sept. 12 - at Southern Miss

Sept. 19 - at Vanderbilt

Sept. 26 - at Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 3 - vs. Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 10 - at Murray State*

Oct. 17 - vs. UT Martin*

Oct 24 - vs. Jacksonville State*

Oct. 31 - at Tennessee State*

Nov. 7 - vs. Southeast Missouri State*

Nov. 14 - at Tennessee Tech*

* - OVC game