JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- Kickoff Week might have been the greatest opening weekend ever in college football. Week 2? It looks more like an excuse to take a nap or get some yard work done.
Saturday's slate is full of David vs. Goliath matchups, FCS teams playing in SEC stadiums, where David usually has no chance of winning. The only interesting part about the games is typically the final score, just to see if the home team covers the spread. But Goliath has been taken down before, and there's going to come a time where he'll be taken down again.
What's the secret?
"You've got to pick out the right rock," Jacksonville State coach John Grass said.
Grass should know. Not only is his team traveling to LSU on Saturday, but he was on the sideline at Jordan-Hare Stadium last year when Jacksonville State, a 47-point underdog, had No. 6 Auburn on the ropes. Up 20-13 with less than three minutes remaining, all the Gamecocks needed was a first down to basically end the game.
Several national media outlets, including ESPN, had already reached out to the school's sports information director before the game was over requesting a postgame interview with Grass or inquiring about a trip to Jacksonville, Alabama, the following week for a story.
But, as the story goes, Goliath prevailed in overtime.
"It does sting," Grass said. "You wanted to win the game because we expected to win the game and really felt like we had played well enough to win it. We'll just have to see how it goes this Saturday. Maybe we'll play well enough again to give ourselves a chance."
It begins with a belief
The week before last year's Auburn-Jacksonville State game, nobody was talking about the game itself. Auburn fans admittedly made their way to see the giant new video board for the first time, and it was just an added bonus to see the Tigers win.
Somebody forgot to tell that to the Jacksonville State players.
"Going into the Auburn game, we wanted to win," Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins said. "We didn't want to compete. We didn't want to get close or show people that we're alright. We wanted to go in there and win the football game."
The Gamecocks nearly did win the game thanks in large part to Jenkins, who went 26-of-43 for 277 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He made some throws that Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson probably couldn't have made. In fact, Auburn was one of a handful of schools that expressed interest in Jenkins as a possible graduate transfer after the season.
Jenkins opted to stay, though. He wants to win a national championship after leading Jacksonville State to the FCS title game last year and falling short.
The senior will also get another chance at that SEC opponent Saturday, but the early line has the Gamecocks as heavy underdogs again.
"I saw something that it's like a 28-point spread. That's disrespectful," Jenkins said. "I don't feel like it should be that way. We're a good football team. We have some good football players, and we've got a lot of guys that can make plays.
"If we play like we play and don't go out there trying to be Superman, we'll be alright."
You have to have players
Recent FCS teams that have pulled off upsets have had at least one or two guys that probably should be playing for a Power 5 school.
When Appalachian State shocked Michigan back in 2007, it had a sophomore quarterback in Armanti Edwards who played five seasons in the NFL. Three years ago, when Georgia Southern won at Florida, Jerick McKinnon rushed for 125 yards and the game-winning touchdown. McKinnon is now backing up Adrian Peterson on the Minnesota Vikings.
This Jacksonville State team is no different. The Gamecocks have a handful of players who transferred in from SEC schools, including Tramel Terry (Georgia), Shaq Davidson and Al Harris Jr. (South Carolina), Josh Clemons (Kentucky) and, most notably, Roc Thomas (Auburn).
Thomas still remembers last year's near upset to Jacksonville State. He caught a 51-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give Auburn the lead, but it was his late fumble that nearly cost the Tigers the game.
"It was a devastating play," Thomas said. "It was hard because I fumbled and I felt like I let the team down. It was a pretty tough moment."
Thomas is on the other side now. He rushed for 71 yards and three touchdowns in his Jacksonville State debut last week and is ready to take his SEC experience into Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
"We feel extremely confident," Thomas said. "We know our job. We know our role. We know what we've got to do."
It takes a little luck
It's hard to argue that Jacksonville State wasn't the better team last September when it took Auburn to the brink. The Gamecocks had more yards, less turnovers and won the time-of-possession battle.
But sometimes you still need a break to fall your way.
If the punter doesn't kick the ball off the side of his foot in the final minutes, would Auburn have had enough time to come back? If the defensive back times his jump a little better in the end zone, could he have batted away Melvin Ray's game-tying touchdown catch on third down? Almost a year later, these are the plays that still keep Grass awake at night.
"It was on us," Grass said. "We didn't play well enough early in that game to stay in that game. And when you're playing a team of that caliber, you've got to play great."
Jacksonville State will get another shot at Goliath this Saturday, though it will be even tougher against an LSU team that Grass believes is the most talented team the Gamecocks have ever played in the program's history.
The game plan? Pick out the right rock.