Impressive opening performances lead into an FBS-FCS matchup on Friday night
Coastal Carolina capped the Sun Belt's glorious day last Saturday night, scorching Kansas, 38-23, to join Arkansas State (Kansas State) and Louisiana (Iowa State) with a win over a Big 12 opponent.
Conversely, FCS program Campbell nearly pulled off an upset against the Sun Belt, falling 27-26 to Georgia Southern as a huge underdog, and only after failing on a two-point conversion with 15 seconds remaining.
This week, Coastal Carolina must guard against an emotional letdown when it opens the home portion of its schedule versus Campbell. The Chanticleers won the only previous matchup in 2018 when it pulled away in the second half to a 58-21 victory — a game rescheduled and moved to Campbell's campus due to the forecasted path of Hurricane Florence.
Campbell at Coastal Carolina
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Coastal Carolina - 26
When Campbell Has the Ball
Campbell sophomore quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams, the Big South's preseason offensive player of the year, will seek to build off an outstanding performance (310 total yards, three total touchdowns) against Georgia Southern. He's a dual-threat signal-caller who will take off on the run when a receiver is not open. Leading wide receiver Caleb Snead remains out with an injury, but sophomores Jai Williams and Jalen Kelsey stepped up their play in the opener.
Head coach Mike Minter's squad starts an offensive line that's bigger than at many FBS programs, including tackles Tyler McLellan (6-8, 345) and Mike Edwards (6-7, 345). The size is important because Coastal is big across its defensive line. Defensive tackle C.J. Brewer led the way as the Chants combined for three sacks and 12 tackles for 41 yards in losses in its opener.
When Coastal Carolina Has the Ball
Coastal has one of the better offensive lines in the Sun Belt, which underscores how the Chants averaged 195.5 rushing yards per game last season and opened with 185 against Kansas. Running back C.J. Marable, who gained 75 yards in the opener, is the first option, but redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall runs the ball, too. He had a hand in all five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) against the Jayhawks.
For Campbell to prevent Coastal from consistently converting first downs, the Fighting Camels need a big game from All-Big South rover Darion Slade, especially if middle linebacker Justice Galloway-Velazquez, who set the school’s single-season tackles mark (111) last year, remains out of the lineup. McCall has a number of reliable passing options, including wide receiver Jaiyon Heiligh, tight end Isaiah Likely and Marable coming out of the backfield.
Despite the close call at Georgia Southern, Campbell has never beaten an FBS program in five attempts. Coastal head coach Jamey Chadwell is quite familiar with the Fighting Camels, having been the Chanticleers' associate head coach and offensive coordinator in 2018 and posting wins over them in 2013 and '14 as Charleston Southern's head coach.
In those three games, Chadwell's offenses averaged 301 rushing yards on 6.5 yards per carry. He will stick to a similar game plan on Saturday. Add in that Coastal could have the best defense of its FBS era and the Chants will post a methodical victory.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 35, Campbell 17
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— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Top photo courtesy of Coastal Athletic Media)