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Stan Becton | | November 18, 2021

No. 5 Kennesaw State battles No. 24 Monmouth for Big South title in Week 12's FCS game of the week

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For this week's FCS game of the week, head to Fifth Third Bank Stadium, where Monmouth visits Kennesaw State in Week 12's matchup at the top of the Big South.

When Monmouth and Kennesaw State play, the Big South conference title and an automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs will be on the line. Both teams are undefeated in conference play entering the matchup, but either the Hawks or Owls will suffer their first loss after the dominant conference foes meet in Week 12.

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Week 12 FCS game of the week:

No. 24 Monmouth (N.J.) at No. 5 Kennesaw State | 1 p.m. ET | ESPN+

Monmouth has won 16 consecutive Big South games, tying the longest streak in conference history. To break the record and pick up win 17, the Hawks will need a solid outing on the offensive end. For that, Monmouth can look to quarterback Tony Muskett. In Week 12, Muskett will have the chance to pass for four touchdowns in his third consecutive game. Even if Muskett can't hit that mark again, the Hawks have running back Jaden Shirden, who ran for a career-high 156 yards in Week 11, averaging 9.8 yards per carry. Against the fifth-ranked team in the FCS, Muskett and Shirden could shine for the Monmouth offense.

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On the defensive side of the ball, Monmouth will rely on a rushing defense that allows just 104.2 yards per game to shut down Kennesaw State in Week 12. Last week, the Hawks held Robert Morris to just 37 yards on the ground. Monmouth's run defense should get a boost with the return of All-Big South safety Anthony Budd. If the Hawks can stop the run, they'll have a great chance at becoming the first Monmouth team to win three consecutive conference championships.

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On offense, Kennesaw State uses a dominant triple-option attack. Behind a run-heavy offense, the Owls are the fourth-ranked rushing offense this season, rushing for 150 yards or more in 69 straight games. 

Even Kennesaw State's quarterback, sophomore Xavier Shepherd, sits second in the FCS with 15 rushing touchdowns. Yet, Shepherd is more than just a rushing threat; he averages the second-most passing yards per completion and set the Kennesaw State single-season passing touchdown record with 14 and counting. Shepherd's dual-threat ability makes the Owl offense difficult for any opponent to gameplan against.

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Kennesaw State's defense is another reason why the Owls have been dominant this season. The Owls hold opponents to a 38.14 percent third-down conversion rate behind stellar play from linebacker Evan Thompson. Thompson leads Kennesaw State in tackles and tackles for loss. Thompson and crew will try to remain undefeated against FCS teams this weekend with another solid defensive performance.

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When Kennesaw State hosts Monmouth, it will mark the first time in Big South history that two 6-0 teams in conference play meet in a regular-season finale, winner-take-all game. While Kennesaw State likely makes the FCS Playoffs with a win or loss, Monmouth likely needs the automatic bid to enter postseason play. With high stakes for both sides, this should be an exciting game to watch as the regular season comes to a close.

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