Local college football previews: No. 15 Towson hosts No. 23 Maine, Morgan State welcomes Bethune-Cookman

NO. 23 MAINE (5-3 overall and 4-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association) @ NO. 15 TOWSON (6-2, 4-1)

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Site: Johnny Unitas Stadium

TV: College Sports Live/CBS Digital

Radio: CBS Sports Radio 1300 AM

Series: Maine leads, 7-6

What’s at stake: Not only did Saturday’s 40-36 loss at Delaware end a five-game winning streak, but it also dropped Towson from No. 10 in the most recent STATS Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) poll. And now the Tigers find themselves in a four-way tie atop the CAA with No. 3 James Madison, No. 13 Delaware and Maine, Saturday’s opponent. The good news for Towson is that it is undefeated in three games at home, while the Black Bears are 2-3 away from the friendly confines of The Pine Tree State. The two sides last met on Nov. 7, 2015, when the Tigers escaped Alfond Stadium in Orono, Maine, with a 10-7 decision.

Key matchup: Towson ranks in the middle of the pack in the CAA in sacks allowed with 17 and kept redshirt junior quarterback Tom Flacco clean against the Blue Hens. A similar outcome may be much more difficult against a Maine pass rush that leads the conference in sacks with 33. Senior linebacker Sterling Sheffield also leads the league in sacks with 8½, sophomore linebacker Deshawn Stevens ranks second with seven, and junior defensive lineman Kayon Whitaker is tied for seventh with 5½.

Player to watch: Tigers redshirt junior running back Shane Simpson leads all FCS players in all-purpose yards with 189.9 per game. Simpson, who has scored one touchdown in each of the team’s eight games, has averaged 61.0 rushing yards, 26.5 receiving yards, 89.9 kick return yards and 12.5 punt return yards.

BETHUNE-COOKMAN (4-5 overall and 2-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) @ MORGAN STATE (2-6, 1-3)

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Site: Hughes Stadium

TV: ESPN3

Radio: WEAA 88.9 FM

Series: Bethune-Cookman leads, 23-7

What’s at stake: Saturday’s 38-3 loss at Florida A&M saddled Morgan State with its second multi-game losing streak of the season. The Bears, who are tied for seventh in the 10-team MEAC, will attempt to right the ship against a Bethune-Cookman program that has piled up six consecutive wins in the series. The Wildcats are dealing with a two-game losing skid of their own capped by a 45-9 setback at the University of Nebraska. Both teams trail conference leader Florida A&M (5-0 in the league). The Bears have dropped their last five games at home and are seeking their first win at Hughes Stadium since Oct. 14, 2017.

Key matchup: Bethune-Cookman’s 29.8 points-per-game average has been bolstered by a kick return unit that leads the MEAC in touchdowns with three and ranks second in average yards with 26.3. Senior Jimmie Robinson has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and has averaged 37.4 yards on just 11 returns. Morgan State ranks fifth in the league in kickoff coverage, but leads the conference in touchbacks with 21. This might seem like the time to keep Robinson pinned deep in the end zone.

Player to watch: Bethune-Cookman junior defensive end Marques Ford ranks second in the MEAC in sacks with seven. Morgan State can counter with junior outside linebacker Ian McBorrough (five sacks) and senior defensive tackle Chris Fatogoma (4½), who rank in the top five in that category.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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