OVC in spotlight with No. 2 EIU, No. 21 Tennessee State

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Updated: 10/21/2013 1:04 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Offense versus defense. Defense versus offense.

If it sounds like the perfect story line for a college football game, it should be when Eastern Illinois visits Tennessee State in the Ohio Valley Conference matchup of the season on Saturday.

The showdown will be one of five conference matchups pitting ranked FCS teams against each other this weekend.

On Monday, Eastern Illinois (6-1, 3-0 OVC) moved up one spot to No. 2 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 - the Panthers' highest ranking since they were in the same position in the Nov. 18, 2002 poll, back when quarterback Tony Romo was at the controls of the offense. Tennessee State (7-1, 4-0) rose three spots to No. 21.

The only team ahead of EIU was North Dakota State, the two-time defending FCS champion, which gained all 156 first-place votes and 3,900 points in the poll. The Bison have a 7-0 record and are tied with Youngstown State atop the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings.

Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State are the only unbeaten teams in OVC play, but they have done so in different fashion.

EIU, behind senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has thrown for an FCS-high 2,735 yards and 31 touchdowns, leads the FCS in both scoring offense (48 points per game) and total offense (595.6 yards per game).

Tennessee State ranks second nationally in both scoring defense (13.5) and total defense (264.0). The Tigers have forced 21 turnovers, with Daniel Fitzpatrick and David Van Dyke among the national leaders in interceptions.

The visiting Panthers hold a slim 8-7 lead in the series. The two teams didn't play each other last season, with TSU winning the most recent matchup in 2011, 18-17 at Eastern Illinois.

Eastern Washington (5-2) moved up one spot to No. 3, but the biggest move within the Top 10 was made by McNeese State (6-1) following its Southland Conference win over then-No. 2 Sam Houston State this past Saturday. The Cowboys moved up five spots to No. 4.

The rest of the Top 10 was No. 5 Montana State (5-2), No. 6 Coastal Carolina (7-0), No. 7 Sam Houston State (5-2), No. 8 Towson (7-1), No. 9 Fordham (8-0) and No. 10 Montana (6-1).

The next 10 were No. 11 Maine (6-1), No. 12 Wofford (5-2), No. 13 Youngstown State (7-1), No. 14 Bethune-Cookman (6-1), No. 15 Lehigh (6-1), No. 16 Northern Arizona (5-2), No. 17 Northern Iowa (4-3), No. 18 Villanova (4-3), No. 19 James Madison (5-2) and No. 20 New Hampshire (3-3), which, like McNeese State, moved up a poll-high five spots. The Wildcats edged Villanova, 29-28, in doing so.

Rounding out the Top 25 were Tennessee State, No. 22 Samford (5-2), No. 23 Central Arkansas (4-3), No. 24 Georgia Southern (4-2) and No. 25 South Dakota State (4-4).

In addition to Eastern Illinois-Tennessee State, the other matchups of ranked games this week are Eastern Washington-Montana, Maine-Villanova, Samford- Wofford and Northern Iowa-South Dakota State.

A panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries selects the national poll. In the Top 25 voting, a first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.

During the regular season, the Top 25 will be released every Monday afternoon, except for the final weekend, when it will be released Sunday morning, Nov. 24, prior to the selection of the FCS playoff field.

The final Top 25 will be released on the Monday after the FCS championship game Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas.

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