Local college football previews: No. 17 Towson hosts William & Mary, Morgan State travels to Savannah State

WILLIAM & MARY (2-3, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association) @ NO. 17 TOWSON (4-1, 2-0)

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Site: Johnny Unitas Stadium

Stream: CAA.TV

Radio: CBS Sports Radio 1300 AM

Series: William & Mary leads, 9-5

What’s at stake: Saturday’s 52-28 thrashing of then-No. 13 Stony Brook lifted Towson six spots from No. 23 in the most recent STATS Football Championship Subdivision poll. The Tigers are locked in a four-team tie for first in the CAA with No. 5 Elon (4-1), No. 16 Rhode Island (4-1) and No. 21 Maine (3-2). Towson will attempt to improve to 3-0 at home for the first time since 2012 against a William & Mary squad that snapped a three-game losing streak by rallying for a 25-22 win over Albany on Saturday. The Tribe is 4-2 in this series at Towson, but the Tigers have won five of the past seven meetings.

Key matchup: William & Mary’s lethargic offense (11.2 points per game) has been underscored by its struggles in the red zone where it has conference lows in touchdowns (four) and attempts (10). But Towson’s defense has been all too generous when opponents have ventured into the red zone, giving up scores 94.1 percent of the time (16 of 17). Will the Tribe be able to take advantage of its opportunities against the Tigers?

Player to watch: William & Mary ranks dead last in the league in rushing defense, surrendering 211.2 yards per game. Expect to see Towson’s stable of running backs in redshirt junior Shane Simpson (233 yards, three touchdowns), sophomore Kobe Young (188 yards, one touchdown) and junior Yeedee Thaenrat (83 yards, two touchdowns) to get plenty of work.

MORGAN STATE (1-4, 0-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) @ SAVANNAH STATE (1-4, 0-2)

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Site: Ted Wright Stadium in Savannah, Ga.

TV: ESPN3

Radio: WEAA 88.9 FM

Series: Morgan State leads, 10-0

What’s at stake: En route to a 1-10 record a year ago, the lone win for Morgan State was its 48-28 rout of Savannah State. The Tigers surely remember that blight and will try to turn the tables by securing their first MEAC victory this season. Savannah State snapped a season-opening four-game losing skid by beating Charleston Southern, 23-3, on Saturday. In that win, the Tigers ran for 213 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries. Meanwhile, the Bears coughed up a four-point lead in the fourth quarter and allowed South Carolina State to score a game-winning touchdown with 70 seconds left in regulation for a 21-18 win.

Key matchup: Morgan State leads the MEAC and ranked second among all Football Championship Subdivision defenses in stopping opponents on third down. Opposing offenses have converted only 23.4 percent of their third-down chances (15 of 64) against the Bears. That should work to their advantage against Savannah State, which is last in the league in third-down efficiency on offense at 21.7 percent (15 of 69).

Player to watch: The Tigers sophomore quarterback duo of T.J. Bell and D’vonn Gibbons has thrown six interceptions, which are tied for the second-highest total in the conference. This could be a game where Morgan State sophomore cornerback Donte Small adds to his league-leading four interceptions.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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