- The very first college football game of the year pits Central Arkansas against Austin Peay on Saturday, August 29th, at 9:00 pm ET
- UCA won last year’s matchup, 24-16, on the road
- Find the odds, a breakdown of the matchup, and a pick for the game in the article below
It’s finally here! The very first college football game of the season, with Austin Peay heading to Central Arkansas on Saturday, August 29th for a 9pm ET kickoff. ESPN is airing the game because … why not?
Perhaps you don’t know much about either of these Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) teams. We’ll get you up to speed. Most importantly, they play football. And there are odds. And this is really happening.
Central Arkansas vs Austin Peay Odds
|Team||Moneyline||Point Spread||Over/Under Total at DraftKings|
|Central Arkansas||-182||-3.5 (-110)||Over 42.5 (-120)|
|Austin Peay||+148||+3.5 (-110)||Under 42.5 (+100)|
Odds as of Aug. 26.
Who to Know: Central Arkansas
No player is more important than the quarterback, and for UCA, that player is junior Breylin Smith. He threw 32 touchdown passes and averaged 285 passing yards per game last season, lighting up defenses for 13 games (en route to a 9-4 record).
Week Zero vs Austin Peay on @espn!
? Saturday, August 29, 2020
?Montgomery, [email protected] vs @OVCSports #BearClawsUp #FearTheStripes pic.twitter.com/lwFEd3OPWE
— #10 ??? ????? ???????? (@UCA_Football) August 6, 2020
Smith’s top-two targets return as well, in Tyler Hudson and Lujuan Winningham. They combined for 20 touchdowns and nearly 1,800 yards.
There are some holes to fill on defense, but their 2019 sack leader, J.W. Jones, is back, as well as Robert Rochell (who had five interceptions).
Who to Know: Austin Peay
Austin Peay has some new faces in the fold on offense, as both its starting quarterback and running back have moved on.
Ahmaad Tanner, who averaged 3.7 yards per rush and had five touchdowns last year, will be the new starting tailback while Jeremiah Oatsvall (three touchdowns, three interceptions in two games) figures to take over under center.
Headlined by @JO2K_4, the Governors have a wealth of talent under center. ??
? https://t.co/9vkkqf028f#RunItBack #LetsGoPeay pic.twitter.com/nHBy7lXXBP
— Austin Peay Football (@GovsFB) August 22, 2020
Austin Peay prides itself on its run defense, having allowed only 104 yards per game last year while forcing nearly a fumble per game. Josephus Smith (7.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss) leads a ferocious returning group.
Last Time Out
In last year’s matchup, host Austin Peay held a six-point lead in the fourth quarter before Smith and company took over for UCA. They only managed 32 rushing yards, but UCA made Austin Peay suffer through the air, as Smith tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the final 12:05.
Smith finished 19-for-30 with 283 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll come into Saturday’s matchup with an understanding of how to beat Austin Peay, given that he has done so before. Austin Peay won the total yardage battle last year, 351 to 315, but also committed the only turnover.
? ? at some of the highlights from Saturday’s win at Austin Peay.
Just 4 days til the opener on The Stripes vs Abilene Christian! #BearClawsUp? #FearTheStripes pic.twitter.com/W69SF7TA4A
— #10 ??? ????? ???????? (@UCA_Football) September 10, 2019
It was only the second time these teams had ever met, and the first since 1975. UCA now holds a 2-0 lead in the series.
Controversy for Peay
Austin Peay’s roster turnover extends to its coaching staff, as ex-head coach Mark Hudspeth was suspended in June for “unacceptable conduct” and later resigned.
Hudspeth led Austin Peay to an 11-4 record last season and their first conference championship since 1977. It was his first year as their coach.
Mark Hudspeth had been suspended for ‘unacceptable conduct’ prior to stepping down as head coach at Austin Peay https://t.co/mfOIddh1So
— CollegeFootballTalk (@CFTalk) July 19, 2020
The interim head coach, Marquase Lovings, now has a lot on his plate. Fortunately, he’s not entirely new. He joined Austin Peay in 2019 as the associate head coach and defensive line coach (recall, their defensive line was arguably the team’s most redeeming quality in 2019).
Still, it’s an unfortunate transition for Austin Peay to have to make. Whether or not it will affect their performance is something bettors certainly need to ask.
In such a strange season, coming off a particularly strange offseason, there’s value in stability. UCA has returnees at some critical positions, where Austin Peay is seeing more significant turnover. And UCA’s coach, Nathan Brown, is entering his third season at the school (after setting records there as a quarterback).
For those reasons, in tandem with UCA’s road win over Austin Peay last year, we’ll roll with UCA to take home that coveted first win of the college season.
Pick: Central Arkansas -3.5 (-110)