Jacksonville State is the favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference football title this season and will have the conference's brightest offensive star, according to media staffers who cover the league.
The Gamecocks were the top pick in the OVC’s media poll released Friday, the first such poll the conference says it has conducted in recent history. JSU senior running back DaMarcus James was the pollsters’ pick for preseason offensive player of the year, and Tennessee State defensive lineman Anthony Bass won the defensive player honor. The 13 voters included sports writers for newspapers and websites, as well as teams’ radio broadcasters.
JSU earned 118 points in the polling, with nine first-place votes. Tennessee State was second with 113 points (four first-place), followed by defending OVC champion Eastern Illinois, with 98 votes (one first-place).
The Gamecocks finished 11-4 in 2013, reaching the Football Championship Subdivision playoff quarterfinals. Two of JSU’s losses were to Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois.
James in 2013 was second in the FCS with 29 rushing touchdowns, setting an OVC record. He had 1,477 yards on 292 carries, good enough for JSU’s single-season rushing record.
The OVC will release a preseason poll of head coaches and sports information directors, along with all-conference teams selections, on Monday at a preseason media event in Nashville.
The Gamecocks open the 2014 season at Michigan State on Aug. 29.