I'm not sure what most fans thought when they heard about Michigan State playing Jacksonville State back when schedules were released for the 2014 football season, but all I was thinking was there's a college in that city in northern Florida? And there is. It's called North Florida.
Jacksonville State is, in fact, in Jacksonville. Just a different Jacksonville -- Jacksonville, Alabama, a 9.85 square mile town that has only 12,584 people. Now that we know Michigan State will be playing an FCS school from northern, rural Alabama, let's check out how good this team actually is.
- They're called the Gamecocks and they play in the Ohio Valley Conference, which, surprisingly, doesn’t contain any teams from Ohio.
- In their 110 year team history-- which is relatively long for a program that's still an FCS team-- Jacksonville State has sent 14 players to the NFL, most of whom never played a game.
- Jacksonville State's running back and reigning OVC player of the year DaMarcus James is on the Walter Payton Award Watch List. The Walter Payton Award is given out to the most outstanding player in the FCS every year. Essentially, it's the FCS version of the Heisman. He ran for 1,477 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2013, both school records.
- The Gamecocks went 11-4 in 2013, and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals, eventually finishing number 10 overall in The Sports Network’s poll (they are the main FCS rankings).
- Last season’s Gamecocks offense broke 49 team records, 13 Ohio Valley Conference records and three NCAA records, which should tell you that their offense overall was pretty damn good.
- Last year, Jacksonville State’s offensive coordinator John Grass did a great job, as evidenced by all the offensive accolades from the Gamecock offense. During the offseason, coach Bill Clark was hired by FBS program UAB and Grass was hired to fill the vacancy in Jacksonville.
- Similar to Michigan State’s problem last season, Jacksonville State has a cradle of quarterbacks and are having trouble picking a starting quarterback. Last season Max Shortell, Eli Jenkins and Kyle West all saw playing time at QB, none of them particularly standing out. This season, Georgia transfer Christian LeMay also an eligible quarterback, so we’ll see how things shake out in Friday’s game.
- This team, like a lot of high-profile FCS teams, have a lot of transfer players on their roster (Minnesota transfers, USF transfers, Georgia transfers, etc.)
- THEIR PUNTER IS AUSTRALIAN.
Basically, no matter how interesting this team is -- admittedly, they are pretty interesting -- it shouldn't (and hopefully) won't be a close game.