Jacksonville State, N.C. A&T in potential FCS Kickoff matchup

(STATS) – ESPN is seeking to put the finishing touches on what would be another highly anticipated FCS Kickoff matchup this year.

Jacksonville State and North Carolina A&T, both coming off Top 10 seasons, could be matched in the fifth installment of the season-opening FCS spotlight. The game would be played Aug. 25 in Montgomery, Alabama, and broadcast on an ESPN network.

Jacksonville State, which beat Chattanooga in last year’s nationally televised Kickoff, is contracted to play in the game. ESPN is pursuing North Carolina A&T to be the other team, and while both schools are said to be in favor of the matchup, it has yet to be finalized.

This past season, North Carolina A&T and Jacksonville State finished seventh and ninth, respectively, in the final STATS FCS Top 25. A&T swept the MEAC and Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl titles, finishing 12-0 as the only unbeaten team in the FCS. Jacksonville State went unbeaten in the Ohio Valley Conference for the fourth straight season, but disappointed as the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, falling in the second round to finish 10-2.

If the matchup is scheduled, it would serve as Sam Washington’s first as A&T’s coach. He was elevated last month following Rod Broadway’s retirement, and his offense figures to be particularly strong with the return of quarterback Lamar Raynard, the MEAC offensive player of the year, running back Marquell Cartwright and wide receiver Elijah Bell.

Jacksonville State is 43-8 in coach John Grass’ first four seasons. The Gamecocks’ returnees include quarterback Bryant Horn, who will be challenged by Clemson transfer Zerrick Cooper this summer, and safety Marlon Bridges – both 2017 All-OVC first-team selections.

Other past winners of the FCS Kickoff were Eastern Washington over Sam Houston State in 2014, Montana over North Dakota State in 2015 and North Dakota State over Charleston Southern in 2016.