For the second consecutive week, Jacksonville State is hosting one of the top teams in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Gamecocks just hope the end result is different this time.
JSU (5-3, 4-1) lost to Tennessee Tech 21-14 last week and fell into a three-way tie for first place in the OVC. At 3 p.m. Saturday the Gamecocks will take on the third team in that logjam, Eastern Kentucky (5-3, 4-1), which is on a four-game winning streak.
"We still have an opportunity to win this league and do everything from a goals standpoint that we started out to do," JSU coach Jack Crowe said. "There are three teams in this league right now that have one loss, and we are about to play one. We have every opportunity to beat them at our house in front of our fans."
Since the Gamecocks joined the OVC in 2003 they have accumulated the second-most conference victories with 52. No. 1 on that list is Eastern Kentucky with 53. The teams are even in head-to-head matchups at 4-4.
If playing for first place is not motivation enough for JSU, there is also the revenge factor. EKU beat the Gamecocks 49-37 last season at a time when JSU was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation.
The Colonels passed for 244 yards in that game, though Crowe expects to see a different gameplan this week. EKU relies heavily on tailback Matt Denham, who leads the OVC in rushing with 897 yards.
"They are considerably different than what they have been ever since we have played them," Crowe said. "They are an I-formation team that is clearly going to run the football."
With only two games left in the regular season after this week, the loser of this game will practically be eliminated from winning the OVC title. So Crowe said it is crucial for his team to forget about the disappointment of last week, when a potential game-tying drive in the final minutes ended with a lost fumble inside the Tennessee Tech 30-yard line.
"I think the biggest challenge for us is our mindset," Crowe said. "We have to play with excitement."
THURSDAY'S GAME South Alabama vs. Mississippi Valley State, 6:30 p.m.
South Alabama (5-3) faces a Mississippi Valley State team that is coming off its first victory since the 2009 season.
MVSU (1-8) edged Texas Southern 12-9 last week, snapping a 19-game losing streak. The Delta Devils sealed the victory on an interception with 35 seconds remaining.
This will be the first short week of the season for the Jaguars, who defeated Henderson State 28-3 on Saturday.
"It changes your schedule somewhat. There isn't a lot of preparation time," South Alabama coach Joey Jones said. "It's something we have to deal with, but so do they."
SATURDAY'S GAMES: Alabama A&M at Alcorn St., 2 p.m.
Alabama A&M's victory over Alabama State last week kept the Bulldogs in the hunt for the SWAC East Division title. Now A&M (6-2, 5-1) will attempt to avoid a letdown against struggling Alcorn State (2-5, 1-5).
The Bulldogs have won six in a row since starting the season 0-2. They are led by tailback Kaderius Lacey, who rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries in being named the offensive MVP of last week's Magic City Classic.
Alabama State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 2:30 p.m.
Despite last week's loss to Alabama A&M, ASU (6-2, 6-1 SWAC) remains in contention for the SWAC East title. The Hornets hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with 5-1 Jackson State, while A&M still must play Jackson and West Division-leading Prairie View A&M.
But the Hornets cannot afford to lose either of their final two conference games, beginning with Saturday's contest against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-4, 3-3). The Golden Lions have lost three of their past four.
Miles at Tuskegee, 1 p.m.
Miles (6-3, 5-1 SIAC) takes a five-game winning streak and its newly acquired SIAC West Division championship to Tuskegee (3-5, 3-3) for the Golden Bears' regular-season finale.
Miles beat Stillman 9-7 last week to claim a berth in the SIAC championship game. The Golden Bears will play either Albany State or Morehouse.
Tuskegee is attempting to win consecutive games for the first time this season. The Golden Tigers beat Clark Atlanta last week 24-3.
Stillman at Clark Atlanta, 12:30 p.m.,
After winning five consecutive games, Stillman (6-3, 4-2) has now lost two in a row. But the Tigers have a chance to bounce back this week against Clark Atlanta (2-7, 1-5), which is on a six-game losing streak.
Stillman's problem lately has been on offense. The Tigers have scored a total of 10 points in their two recent losses.
Clark Atlanta also has struggled offensively, averaging 7.8 points per game during its losing streak.
West Alabama at Delta State, 4 p.m.
West Alabama can claim at least a share of the Gulf South Conference title for the first time in 40 years with a victory over Delta State.
The Tigers (7-2, 2-1 GSC) put themselves in this position with an upset of North Alabama last week. But now they have to do it again against Delta State (8-1, 2-0), the top-ranked team in Division II.
Delta State leads the series with UWA 33-23, including a 41-37 victory last season. The Tigers have not won at DSU since 2002.
North Alabama vs. West Georgia, 4 p.m.
After being the top-ranked team in Division II, a two-game losing streak has put North Alabama in danger of missing the playoffs.
The Lions (6-2, 0-2 GSC) have lost their past two games by a combined 11 points. Seven of UNA's eight losses during Terry Bowden's three seasons as the team's coach have been by six points or less.
West Georgia (5-3, 1-1) has won three of its past four games and is coming off a 23-20 upset of Valdosta State.
Samford vs. Chattanooga, 11 a.m.
Samford (5-3, 3-3 Southern Conference) seeks to secure a winning season against a Chattanooga team that continues to suffer close losses.
The Bulldogs have won four of their past five behind an offense that is averaging 33.4 points per game this season.
Since a season-opening loss to Nebraska, Chattanooga (4-5) has dropped four games by a combined total of 11 points. Despite their record, the Mocs are ranked first in the league in total defense and second in scoring defense.