The big game in FCS this week is a rare cross-country battle between the No. 5 Eastern Washington Eagles and the No. 16 Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
This will be just the ninth time in its history that Eastern Washington has played in a game east of the Mississippi River. The Gamecocks will play a return game in Cheyney in 2021. Both sides are 1-1, but Eastern’s lone loss came to Washington — a Top 25 FBS team — while JSU suffered a loss against Southeastern Louisiana.
The key battle to watch in this game will be under-center, as both quarterbacks are among the best passers in the country. JSU's Zerrick Cooper — a transfer from Clemson — leads FCS in passing with 758 yards. Eastern's Eric Barriere is third in passing with 733 yards.
Here’s everything you need to know about the game, a Top 25 non-conference FCS clash.
Eastern Washington vs. Jacksonville State: Preview, how to watch
Kickoff: 4 p.m. EST | Live Stats
Where: Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium in Jacksonville, Alabama
Watch: Bob Rathbun and Mickey Shadrix will have the call on ESPN+.
Now that The 🔴 has been Protected, it's time for 🦅🏈 to turn up the 🔥🔥🔥 this Weekend in Alabama!!!— EWU Football (@EWUFootball) September 11, 2019
The Eags take on @JSUGamecocksFB this Saturday at 1 pm PT on ESPN+#ProtectTheRed #ATS #GoEags pic.twitter.com/FH8bd5vfbr
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Both teams were ranked in their last meeting too, but much more was at stake. No. 3 Eastern Washington took a 35-24 victory against No. 20 Jacksonville State on Dec. 14, 2013 in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.
True freshman Albert Havili sealed the win for Eastern with a 77-yard interception return for a touchdown in Cheyney. The Eagles had 545 total yards of offense while the Gamecocks mustered up 528 yards of offense. Then a redshirt freshman, Cooper Kupp (who now plays with the LA Rams) had four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown in the win for Eastern.
This will be just the second meeting between the two teams.
FCS RANKINGS: The Top 25 polls for Week 3
|Eastern Washington||Jacksonville State|
|No. 4/5||Rankings (FCS STATS/Coaches)||No.16/17|
|59-31 win over Lindenwood||Last week||41-20 win over Chattanooga|
(20-8, third year)
(53-13; sixth year)
|13||FCS Playoff Appearances||9|
|1||FCS National Championships||0|
|366.5 (fifth)||Passing Offense||379.0 (second)|
|155.0 (54th)||Rushing Offense||116.0 (79th)|
|39.0 (84th)||Defense (points allowed per-game)||27.5 (48th)|
- JSU quarterback Zerrick Cooper was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week last week for his performance against Chattanooga, which featured 344 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the win.
- Here’s what JSU head coach John Grass had to say about the match-up with Eastern Washington: “They're always in the national hunt. This is like a quarterfinal/semifinal type game. They won a national championship in 2010 and they predominately do a really good job. You kind of see that on film. They played in the finals last year. They have a lot of guys on offense back, and they've got the same trigger guy who led them to the national title game.”
- Eastern Washington is 30-16 against ranked opponents since 2010, but is just 2-8 in those games on the road. Eastern was 5-2 against FCS ranked teams last year.
- Six former Eastern Washington players made NFL rosters this year.
- Eastern Washington plays seven of its 12 regular season games on the road this year.
- For Eastern, junior quarterback Eric Barriere and sixth-year center Spencer Blackburn were named preseason All-Americans. Barriere was also named to the Walter Payton Award watchlist.
- Since 2010, JSU and Eastern have the fourth and fifth best winning percentages in FCS at 75.22 percent and 75 percent.
- JSU has won five straight OVC titles, while Eastern has captured at least a share of seven of the last 10 Big Sky titles.
- In the regular season, JSU has won 49 of its last 54 games at home. JSU's last regular season loss at home came on Oct. 12, 2013 against Tennessee State.
- Eastern head coach Aaron Best said of JSU quarterback Zerrick Cooper: “He’s the real deal. Throws the prettiest deep ball I’ve seen in a long time.”
- JSU head coach John Grass has a 80.3 winning percentage as a head coach, which is the fourth highest among all active Division I head coaches who have coached at least 30 games.
- JSU has been in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll for 76 straight weeks, which trails only streaks by North Dakota State (122) and South Dakota State (94).