For this week's FCS game of the week, take a trip to Springfield, Missouri where No. 19 Central Arkansas faces No. 23 Missouri State in the Week 2's lone game featuring two ranked teams.
Saturday night's primetime matchup will be the third meeting between the two teams aptly nicknamed the Bears in less than 12 months. Central Arkansas won both games in 2020 to sweep the series.
Entering 2021's contest, each team is 0-1 after losing to FBS opponents. Central Arkansas lost 41-20 to Arkansas State, while Missouri State lost 23-16 to Oklahoma State.
Week 2 FCS game of the week:
Central Arkansas led at halftime before eventually losing to its FBS foe Arkansas State last week. QB Breylin Smith threw for three touchdowns, but also had two costly interceptions. Elite wide receiver duo Tyler Hudson and Lujuan Winningham lived up to the preseason hype; Hudson caught seven passes for 118 yards while Winningham caught six passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Despite success in the air, Central Arkansas struggled to get anything going on the ground, rushing for only 42 yards with RB Cameron Myers limited by a knee injury. Central Arkansas will need Myers healthy or his backups to have a better performance entering Week 2.
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On defense, Central Arkansas is led by DB Cameron Godfrey who's coming off a game with two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Godfrey highlights a strong secondary that also features Week 1's two leading tacklers in DB Deandre Lamont and DB TaMuarion Wilson. Helping out the backend of the defense up front is DE Logan Jessup. Jessup's 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks lead the team. Central Arkansas's defense will look to improve Saturday after allowing five second-half touchdowns, four through the air.
Missouri State's offense is under the tutelage of legendary head coach Bobby Petrino is now in its second year. With a full offseason of work for the first time, Missouri State's offense showed signs of improvement last week against Oklahoma State, gaining 336 yards. QB Jason Shelley played well in the second half and nearly led the Bears to a comeback. This week Shelley will look to finish the drop with the help of top receiving target WR Damoriea Vick.
All-American CB Montrae Braswell leads a Missouri State defense that limited Oklahoma State to 120 yards of offense while forcing six punts and a fumble in the second half of Week 1. Braswell had forced a turnover of his own, getting an interception to close the first half. He's joined in the secondary by S Kyriq McDonald, the player who forced the second-half fumble. The two defensive backs will look to set the tone defensively against Central Arkansas, but the most important player to the defense might be on special teams.
Punter Grant Burkett is a weapon for Missouri State. He can flip the field, giving the Bears a key advantage in the field position battle. Against Oklahoma State, Burkett pinned the Cowboys inside their own 20-yard line three times while averaging 49 yards per punt on the afternoon. If Burkett can replicate his performance, he can help out the Missouri State defense by forcing an explosive Central Arkansas offense to drive long fields.
Week 2's FCS game of the week may come down to the wire. The two previous meetings between Central Arkansas and Missouri State were decided by seven and nine points, respectively. As the only ranked matchup of the week, all eyes will be on the Battle of the Bears in Missouri on Saturday night.