Jacksonville State Gamecocks vs. Murray State Racers
Sunday, April 11, 2021 – 02:00 PM EDT at Roy Stewart Stadium
One of the premier matchups of the week features two top-25 programs. The 10th-ranked Jacksonville State Gamecocks take on the 16th-ranked Murray State Racers. This battle will determine who sits in first place for the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) crown.
The 8-2 Gamecocks are a well-rounded team but not one full of starpower that'll overwhelm foes in a consistent fashion. Quarterback Zion Webb is a good playmaking dual-threat presence but is inconsistent passing the ball. He's completing under 59 percent of his throws for the season, and has finished three games under 200 yards passing.
Webb is still a stud though, as he earned OVC Player of the Week honors last week against Eastern Illinois. He and tailback Josh Samuel combined for almost 400 yards of production in their blowout win.
However this team is no offensive juggernaut. They've totaled 24 or less points in five games dating back to the fall, including their two losses. The Gamecocks certainly play to the adage of when their plan works, they win and play well, but it all falls apart together.
Having a good but not great offensive line plays into this and the Racers must be aggressive in chasing after Webb. At 5-1, with a lone loss to Austin Peay last week, the Racers are a high-scoring bunch who are more opportunistic than productive from an offensive standpoint. They've had just one 100-yard rushing performance and zero 200-yard passing games on the season, which we should remember for our NCAAF picks.
Both squads are flawed and unique simply based on how they're accomplishing their victories. Murray State has scored at least 31 in four straight games, and have won three close outcomes. Their comfort in pressure games has become clear even as they fell short last week. Jacksonville State doesn't have that same experience.
The positives of this go both ways. There's reason to have more confidence in the Gamecocks' defense for our sports betting based on results. There's been limited offensive success by all of their foes this season as opposed to the Racers relying on their offense to bail out their defense.
Racers' quarterback Preston Rice is a classic rushing threat but brings very little to the passing game. He's completing just over 50 percent of his 130 attempts on the year, and the offense is more concerned with controlling the clock and winning with option football.
There's nothing wrong with this approach but it's a limited upside style in big games. The Gamecocks are fast and can play with bigger teams too. Austin Peay defeated both of these teams by a combined six points for a reason, and they both have similar limitations. This should be a fun game but we're matching up weaknesses in a difficult way.
I'm straying away from the option offense Murray State has. Their defense may break this week because the Gamecocks can win on the ground and through the air without being dependent on the other. Running back Damonta Witherspoon has been solid this season but not nearly as dynamic as they'll need to win against a top-10 foe.
The line posted by sportsbooks this game is reasonable because it's a road game for the Gamecocks. We're going to take full advantage of the value here. There's four top-25 matchups this week and this is the one to feel best about. The others have less clear advantages, whereas we have a team with a high upside in Jacksonville State, whereas Murray State can win against lesser foes but struggle against even matchups.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.