Look, Austin Peay is an FCS squad out of Tennessee who is coming to Tuscaloosa to collect a paycheck and give the Alabama Crimson Tide a practice game. The Governors have been around a while and bounced around between being division 2, independent, and FCS over the last 100 years. They had been in the Ohio Valley Conference since 2007, and jumped into the Atlantic Sun Conference this year, along with teams like Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State, and North Alabama.
At 7-3, they’re a solid FCS team that shut out a trio of out of conference foes earlier in the season, but took bad losses to Central Arkansas and Jacksonville State, two more powerful FCS squads.
Coach Scotty Walden enters his third season as a green 33 year-old head coach whole was a WR coach of Southern Miss before getting a chance to be the interim HC for the Golden Eagles and parlaying that into his gig with AP. He placed 3rd in the conference in 2020 and 2nd in 2021, and currently has more wins than he had in either of those seasons, though the ASUN has a bit stiffer competition than the Ohio Valley.
Overall, the Govs are outscoring their opponents 35-22 on the season, with their defense stifling opponents to 3.2 yards per carry and 5.9 yards per attempt.
Graduate transfer QB Mike DiLiello played at Middle Tennessee before transferring to AP, and has put together a strong, efficient season: 142 passer rating, 21 TDs to 9 picks, 7.7 yards per attempt, and a 60% completion rate. Their offensive scheme looks very similar to Alabama’s under Mike Locksley a few years back: quick slants, quicker screens, and deep shots.
Drae McCray, James Burns, and Trey Goodman are all small, shifty guys who are slippery threats after the catch on screens. McCray is the go-to guy with 929 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, plus another 70 yards rushing on speed sweep plays.
For the bigger receivers, 6’4” senior Joshua DeCambre has 15 catches at only 9.93 yards per catch as a possession guy, and TE Jordan Goco is a towering 6’7” guy who’s been seeing more action the last couple of weeks.
The rushing game is very RPO and read option based, with DiLiello taking 115 carries for 672 yards on QB keepers. He’s not the biggest or the fastest guy, but he’s a tough runner with enough speed to get around bigger linemen and get to the side lines.
Then there’s a 3-headed attack at running back. The tiny CJ Evans has 119 carries for 625 yards, while freshman Jevon Jackson (a powerful 200 pound back) has 90 carries for 571 yards (6.3 yards per carry!). At the FCS level, Jackson is an athletic specimen that runs with a lot of power and explosion.
Finally, senior Josh Samuel (a transfer from JSU) fills the role of a power back at 212 pounds. He opened the season with 20 carries as a starter, but has moved into more of a role player through the rest of the season.
Defensively, the Govs are a 3-3-5 team that employs a true nose tackle, a 3 man rush, and 8-man off coverage for much of the game. LB Antoine Williams is the main playmaker for them, as he leads the team with 81 tackles and leads with 11 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. His running mate, Josh Rudolph, has 7.5 tackles for loss as well. Along the defensive line, Kwame Sutton is the primary pass rush threat with 4.5 sacks, and defensive tackle Jau’Von Young has 8.5 tackles for loss as an interior run stuffer.
Defensive back Demetries Ford has a ridiculous 15 pass deflections to go along with 3 interceptions, and 6’4” safety Ethan Caselberry has three picks of his own. Overall, the secondary has 12 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles so far this season. They’re an opportunistic bunch.
With all of that, the Governors are severely undersized from top to bottom compared to Alabama, so don’t expect it to be a pretty game. Most importantly, they’ll be good for Alabama’s reserve QBs to test their mettle against with their 8-man drops to avoid throwing picks to disguised zones.