In 2023, the Ohio Valley Conference and the Big South are joining forces to put together a combined football conference for the first time. The OVC has six schools, and the Big South has four; the schools will play a six-game conference schedule, with more coming in future years as the member institutions finish up previous scheduling commitments. Gardner-Webb is the defending Big South football champion and is ranked second in preseason Big South-OVC rankings, behind defending OVC champs Southeast Missouri. We will take a look at a few of the top matchups in the season schedule to help with your college football betting decisions.
NCAA Football Betting News: Top Big South-OVC Football Betting Games for 2023
Tennessee-Martin at Gardner-WebbSaturday, October 28 at 1:30pm ETErnest W. Spangler Stadium, Shelby, NCTennessee-Martin at Tennessee TechSaturday, November 4 at 2:30pm ETTucker Stadium, Cookeville, TNGardner-Webb at Tennessee TechSaturday, November 11 at 2:30pm ETTucker Stadium, Cookeville, TNSoutheast Missouri at Tennessee-MartinSaturday, November 11 at 4:00pm ETGraham Stadium, Martin, TN
The four teams in these games are at the top of the preseason polling for the Big South-OVC association. Southeast Missouri State is ranked #11 in the HERO Sports FCS Preseason Top 25. They lost at Montana, 34-24, in the opening round of the FCS playoffs, squandering a 24-3 lead in the fourth quarter. They return nine FCS All-Conference players, including tailback Geno Hess (first team), wide receiver Ryan Flournoy, and return specialist Dalyn McDonald. Starting quarterback Paxton DeLaurent returns after ranking #11 among FCS quarterbacks, according to HERO Sports. Their depth at quarterback took a hit when C.J. Ogbonna transferred to Buffalo, but DeLaurent threw for 2,684 yards and 19 touchdowns with six picks. Flournoy caught 61 balls for 984 yards and seven scores, and Damoriea Vick caught 43 passes for 416 yards and four scores. Both receivers are 6’2” or above and give the offense plenty of balance for a running game that has sixth-year senior Geno Hess. He has been named First Team All-OVC three times and an All-American three times. He has the school record for rushing yards (4,112) and rushing scores (53). He was the OVC Offensive Player of the Year in 2022, averaging 7.2 yards per carry and scoring 21 touchdowns. The defense has nine players who started at least six games, and the top four tacklers are all back.
Gardner-Webb finished 7-6 last season, including a 6-3 record against FCS foes and a perfect 5-0 record in the Big South. They went to the playoffs and took down Eastern Kentucky in a 52-41 barnburner before getting torched, 54-14, by William & Mary. Tailback Narii Gaither returns after finishing first-team FCS All-Conference according to HERO Sports. Quarterbacks Ty Lyles (Coastal Carolina) and Gino English (Florida State) are transferring in to boost the offense after the team lost its All-Conference quarterback and top two wide receivers. Gaither ran for 1,119 yards and eight touchdowns last year, and he is a three-time First-Team All-Big South tailback. Jayden Brown (459 yards, 6 TD) and Donovan Jones (278 yards, 3 TD) return to give the running game depth.
Tennessee Tech gets to play the other three tough teams in the Big South-OVC association at home, which helps. The Golden Eagles have four players on the 64-player Preseason Watch List for the new association: linebacker Jacquez McGowan, punter Nick Bigelow, DL Kail Dava, and OL Nate Hodnett. Hodnett anchored a strong line that helped the team score 34 touchdowns and only permitted 14 sacks for 68 yards the entire season. Dava notched 24 tackles, 5 ½ tackles for loss and 1 ½ sacks and recovered a fumble on the way to making second-team All-OVC. McGowan was named an OVC All-Newcomer after posting 59 tackles and an interception.
Tennessee-Martin has defensive lineman Daylan Dotson (first team), tight end D.J. Nelson (fourth team), and offensive tackle Gavin Olson (fourth team) on Phil Steele’s FCS Preseason All-American teams. Dotson led the OVC lsat year with 14 ½ tackles for loss and 9 ½ sacks, with 48 total tackles, five forced fumbles and two recoveries – these last two stats led the OVC. Nelson was first-team All-OVC in 2022, leading all tight ends in the conference with 21 catches, totaling 267 yards and six touchdown catches, fourth in the conference. Against Tennessee Tech, he set career highs with 95 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Olson started all 11 games in 2022 at left tackle and notched 82 knockdowns; the O-line as a whole was sixth in the nation in sacks permitted, allowing only two on 401 dropbacks.
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