The John Carroll University football program hasn’t even earned a share of an Ohio Athletic Conference title since 1994. Every year since then, the University of Mount Union has the title of conference champion.
On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Blue Streaks will attempt to unseat the 25-time conference champion Purple Raiders.
For the second straight year, the final game of the regular season for both Mount Union and JCU will take place in Alliance, Ohio and pit two top-10 undefeated teams against one another.
In 2013, the Blue Streaks fell to the Purple Raiders, 42-34, after being stopped on 4th down deep in Mount territory with under a minute to play.
The Blue Streaks went on to fall in their opening round playoff game to St. John Fisher College, while Mount Union went on to play in the program’s ninth straight national title game, falling to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
But 2014 is a new year for both teams. And, this matchup promises to be one to remember.
For the Blue Streaks, all eyes will be on senior quarterback Mark Myers. Myers, who has been watched all year by NFL scouts, is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and currently leads the country in passing efficiency across all divisions.
It certainly won’t be easy for Myers and the rest of the JCU offense as Mount Union houses the best defense in the nation, allowing only six points per game.
But while Mount’s defense is best in the nation, JCU is right behind them with the second overall defense in the nation, allowing just 7.4 points per game.
Yet, even with both teams housing dominate defenses, it’s hard to see a scenario in which both teams aren’t putting points up on the board.
Along with Myers, JCU has senior running back Tommy Michals, senior Aramis Greenwood and sophomore Marshall Howell in its arsenal.
Michals took over the role as lead back this year after the graduation of DaQuan Grobsmith and has impressed throughout the year. In the team’s most recent outing against Otterbein, Michals had a career day with over 200 yards rushing, pushing his total to over 1,000 yards for the year.
The running game will be crucial for the Blue Streaks, especially in terms of opening up the passing game for Myers to find his plethora of options, specifically Greenwood and Howell.
The Purple Raiders cannot be overlooked, though, as they have just as many weapons as the Blue Streaks, if not more.
Mount Union also has an experienced quarterback at the helm in senior Kevin Burke. Burke has 27 passing touchdowns on the year to only three interceptions. Similarly to Myers, Burke would have even more impressive stats if not for his team’s incredible defense allowing Burke to sit at some point nearly every game.
Mount Union, more so than JCU, spreads the wealth when it comes to the running game. But, feature back sophomore Bradley Mitchell is on the verge of 1,000 yards as well this season. He has piled up six touchdowns in the Purple Raiders’ last two games and looks to be the toughest test of the year for the stout JCU defensive front.
A pair of junior wideouts will look to find space within the JCU defensive backs and track down passes from Burke. Roman Namdar and Taurice Scott have combined for 19 touchdowns and over 1,500 yards this season already and will be the keys to focus on for JCU safeties Brody Zangaro and Marty Gibbons.
When it comes down to Saturday, nothing can be counted out. These are two of the best teams in the nation and anything can happen. In all likelihood, it’s going to be a game similar to last year’s classic, coming down to the final plays.