Southern University has had a rag to riches story since eight-year head coach Dawson Odums took over.
The Jaguars will have an opportunity to prove why they are favorites to potentially play in Atlanta in December as they renew their storied rivalry with Florida A&M this Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida.
The trip to Tallahassee won’t be an easy one for Southern. FAMU currently leads the overall series 33-26-1.
The last time these two teams met was in 2012 with the Jaguars defeating the Rattlers 21-14.
Since the season began, Odums has seen the good and the ugly in his Jaguars’ 1-2 start.
— Junior quarterback Ladarius Skelton showing he can handle the big stage.
— A close loss to FCS opponent McNeese State.
— An upgraded running game, and noticeable improvements in the play of the defense.
— Five turnovers cost the Jaguars a big upset against McNeese State.
— Over 600 yards given up through the air defensively.
— Skelton’s inability to stay in the pocket to throw passes consistently still has question marks.
— The Jags are offensively 12-31 overall this season on third downs.
There was optimism this past weekend when Southern dominated Edward Waters 61-0 in its home debut.
However, the Edward Waters game should not be measured by the score. Southern’s defense managed not to give up big plays through the air, managed to keep turnovers down, and made it possible for Odoms to get other runningbacks some reps against an inferior team.
With Southern continuing its grueling early road schedule — already playing two out of three games on the road this season — Coach Odums is approaching this week’s matchup against FAMU with great intention.
Offensively, Southern has adopted a smash-mouth style of football running the ball often and running it well as they logged 407 yards on the ground against Edward Waters. The Jaguars will depend on the backfield duo of Skelton and veteran running back Devon Benn.
Against Edward Waters, Benn ran for 120 total yards on 17 carries, and Skelton finished the evening rushing for 53 yards and throwing for 64 yards on the day.
Defensively, defensive end Jordan Lewis and linebacker Caleb Carter round out a very fast front seven that caused multiple turnovers against Edward Waters.
Jordan Lewis gave the Jags a 95-yard pick-six return, and Caleb Carter led all Jaguars with five defensive tackles.
Skelton is going to have to show a balanced attack on an aggressive FAMU defense if the Jaguars want to win in Tallahassee. A 120-150 yard passing game, 50-75 yards running game for Skelton, handoffs to running back Devon Benn, and a random dose of screen and draw plays can keep FAMU’s defense on its heels.
FAMU’s defense is aggressive and was able to get six sacks for a loss of 35 yards last week in its 57-20 win over Fort Valley State last Saturday. So the Jag’s offensive line better be ready.
Jordan Lewis and the Southern front seven are going to have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage to get pressure on FAMUs quarterback, Ryan Stanley.
Stanley had three touchdowns and 275 yards passing, and his favorite target was George Webb who led all receivers with 106 yards on five catches.
The Jaguars have not done so well in the secondary this year against the pass. So pressure and getting aggressive with the Rattlers’ talented wide receiver core is going to be key if Southern wants to walk out of Tallahassee with a win.