Who's Playing?: Oxford (1-0, #3 CL, #2 MP, #12 NTL (HSFB poll), #1 in 5A [MP]) vs. Starkville (0-1, #6 CL/MP, #77 NTL (MP Computer poll)
What?: National TV Game / First Road Game
Where?: Starkville High School Football Field
When?: Friday, August 28st @ 8:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: National TV on ESPNU, 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports and various other Twitter accounts, thru the iScore Gamecast HERE (use ID 7DF28156B0 for entry if needed) and the iScore Central App on iPhone devices (search Oxford and/or Starkville)
The Lowdown: We have arrived at Oxford's second nationally televised game - and this time it is on one of the big boy networks.
This came to fruition when ESPN called Oxford about scheduling a game with an Alabama team for their showcase of games (which will be shown across their ESPN networks this weekend). With Oxford's schedule full, that couldn't happen but offered this game as an alternative. Starkville has two ESPN 300 players in AJ Brown and Kobe Jones and combined with Oxford's DK Metcalf also in the ESPN 300 and several other players seeing D1 offers pop-up that this alternative passed for ESPN and was able to get the deal done in April.
With the game under a huge national spotlight, let's actually talk able that very thing.
Oxford was rather sloppy in the yellow laundry department. In the last game, 33 yellow hankies were seen and 24 times it was because Oxford broke the rules. It ended up costing Oxford 194 yards in field position. Defensively, the Chargers did a fine job. Pitching a shutout against a quality opponent, but was also responsible for allowing six of Southaven's 13 first downs they got in the game by penalty. Clearly against Starkville, that cannot happen again. That many penalties is bound to cost you dearly at some point.
Oxford's offense struggled to get much going, mainly because of the yellow piece of cloth themselves, but also because the offense couldn't find much rhythm early. With a game under their belt, expect that to change a little bit. The Chargers really can't afford to do this against this defense.
The Starkville defense returns plenty of players off last year's squad that made it to 6A North Half before getting ousted by South Panola that solved their Rubik's Cube. While they return most of their defense, they didn't return a lot of their offense. They lost two of their three talented wide receivers, but retained Brown who they targeted a lot in their passing game. Brown was responsible for 14 of their 22 catches last week.
Starkville didn't play as well as it would like - similar to how Oxford felt last week except in the win/loss part of it - and lost to Noxubee County on the road. They did not score in either overtime. While Noxubee's defense is still very good, how can you not score one point twice when you start your drive at the opposing team's 10 yard line? A Field Goal kicker would be nice to have there.
Whatever the case was, you can expect this game to be a dog fight, with a lot of eyes watching it.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Stop the Referee From Pulling His Yellow Piece of Cloth Out - Twenty-four penalties last week was a penalty every two game minutes. Those are drive killers on offense, and keeps the defense on the field. Six of the 13 first downs Southaven got last week was because of an Oxford penalty.
Establish a Rhythm Early - Last week, five of Oxford's first six drives ended with a punt or turned it over on downs. It might've been first game jitters, but under the ESPN light that doesn't need to happen again. Jack Abraham completed the ball to the turf the first four times last week - he would love for the ball to find Oxford hands this time.
For Starkville to Win, They Must: Find Ways to Get Brown Open - He was their air attack as he caught around two-thirds of all passes. If Oxford can stuff the run game like they did last week and place a double-team on Brown, they are going to need to find a different way to get it done.
Play Solid Defense - Oxford's offense is an obvious threat, and only two times in the last 31 games has that offense been held to fewer than 24 points with Jack Abraham or Ben Bianco at QB. The defense needs to keep the Chargers at bay to give this offense a chance down the stretch. The offense didn't do it last week, so it needs to prove it this week.
Other Notes: The visiting team has won each regular season meeting between the teams. Oxford won two years ago 35-24 while Starkville won last year in Oxford 52-29. Oxford won their only other nationally televised game against Lafayette in 2012 19-0.