By Mike McCall
We’re about 24 hours away from Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff between Southern and Jackson State up in Mississippi — a game that will either keep the Tigers at the top of a heated SWAC East race, or mark a stunning reversal for a struggling Jaguars squad.
To get you ready, here’s a roundup of the key storylines heading into this contest. Check them out and click the links for more details:
- Of course, the biggest story is the coaching change, as Stump Mitchell is out and Dawson Odums is in. With SU’s goal of a division title still very much within reach, Odums is hoping to turn things around through better discipline, hustle and ball security, fundamentals Southern has lacked so far. That — along with an embarrassing loss to Mississippi Valley State — has led to a much different atmosphere at practices this week.
- Coaches have stressed that this won’t be a brand new team though, as the play book and roster haven’t really changed. But there likely will be some differences now that different guys are running the show on offense. Quarterbacks coach Chad Germany and running backs coach Elvis Joseph are the co-offensive coordinators, and with Germany calling plays from the booth instead of Mitchell from the field, no one is quite sure what to expect from the Jaguars. While they’ve all said they’re happy with Dray Joseph‘s play at quarterback, it will be interesting to see if they stick with Mitchell’s one-QB approach or start experimenting.
- A big blow to the SU offense: WR Charles Hawkins will be out for the second straight week with a hamstring injury, leaving the unit without it’s most dynamic weapon. To make matters worse, speedy wideouts Mike Jones (knee) and Willie Quinn (ruled ineligible by NCAA) are probably done for the year.
- On the other side, Jackson State comes in with a potent passing attack led by receiver Rico Richardson and rising star quarterback Clayton Moore, who broke out with a huge starting debut last week. After facing two rushing offenses to start the year, this will be the first test for Southern’s secondary.
- Despite the Jaguars’ slow start, Jackson State isn’t taking them lightly, and there’s still plenty of time for Southern to turn things around and make a run at the SWAC West, where so far only Arkansas-Pine Bluff has looked impressive. But after two embarrassing losses and a jarring coaching change, it’s time for this team to wake up and start playing.
- Prediction: No way you’re getting one of those out of me for this team anymore. They make me pick a score in the paper, but I’m done publicly humiliating myself by trying to guess what this wildly unpredictable team will do.
- Where to listen: You can catch the play-by-play on 97.7 FM Downtown Radio. I’m told you can listen online (and on your iPhone) through iHeartRadio. I haven’t tried it yet, so I’ll be interested to hear how that works.
That’s all folks. For those of you going to Jackson, travel safe and have fun! And make sure to follow me on Twitter for more updates during the game.