For you math majors out there, I am sure you’ve added it up by now. We’ve only got 5 weeks left until the start of the 2016 football season, but we still have seven teams to look at in our ‘Ranking The Teams’ series.

Because of this, we will tackle both #7 and #6 in this feature.

Coming in at #7 is Kennesaw State.

The Owls enter into their second season of not only Big South competition, but as a program as a whole. While their primary conference is the Atlantic Sun, Kennesaw State football serves as an associate member of the Big South Conference. This Georgian team made a name for itself in its inaugural year, causing quite a number of ripples to form throughout the Big South. They managed 2 wins in the conference and posted a 6-5 record for their first season, given a number of their wins came against D2 schools. Regardless, it appears many have high expectations for the program as they have been picked to finish 3rd in the Big South this season. This comes as the result of an impressive offense ran by Coach Brian Bohannon. Between 2002 and 2012, Bohannon spent time at both Navy and Georgia Tech where he became very familiar with the triple-threat offense, a trait he now brings to Kennesaw. The triple-threat offense calls for extreme disciple in opposing defenses and can lay waste to teams should they take their eye off the ball for just a moment. This is demonstrated in the Owls offensive production last year, averaging 29 points and nearly 300 rushing yards a game.

Kennesaw’s area of weakness would have the be on the defensive side of the ball. Former Liberty WR Darrin Peterson had his way with the Owls last year, accumulating 164 yards and 3 touchdowns. Against the top 3 teams in the Big South (CCU, CSU, LU), the Owls gave up an average of 39 points. They handled themselves well against teams with struggling offenses, but the same can’t be said about teams with sound passing and running attacks.

In any manner, it is clear that Kennesaw State is on the rise and should be respected. With Coastal out, it appears that a strong rival spot is vacant. Many Flames fans have wondered if Kennesaw can serve as a suitable replacement. ‘Beat Kennesaw’ doesn’t flow quite like ‘Beat Coastal’ though.

Some other things to keep in mind:

The Owls lost a total of 2 starters from last season: One offensively and one defensively. They will come in with more experience this year and are poised to impact the Big South

While Kennesaw played against a 2-possession deficit for the majority of the game last season, they kept up with the Flames. Considering the Owls have Liberty at home this year, the game could be much closer.

Players to watch:

QB Trey White-The Citadel transfer has been quite a pick-up for the Owls. He led the team in both rushing and passing last year.

Kennesaw State Game

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#6 on our countdown is Gardner-Webb.

Recent years haven’t been good to Big South member Gardner-Webb. Since 2010, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have seen just one winning season, though it was full of conference losses. Their 2015 season was highlighted by knocking off then #15 Liberty. Apart from this, they have seen little success as of late. This is due in part to their offensive output. Last season, they suffered 3 shutouts and averaged just 13 points and 98 passing yards a game. The bulk of their offense came from their run game as they averaged almost 160 yards thanks to good option play. This was much of the reason Gardner-Webb took down the Flames last October, as they put up 265 rushing yards with 4 touchdowns.

While they come in at #6, it is feasible for Gardner-Webb to switch places with Kennesaw State on the countdown. There were a number of reasons I could see them going either way at #6 or #7, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs get the edge thanks to the narrative that will surround this game. Liberty will be looking to enact revenge thanks to the impressive outing Gardner-Webb had against them last year.

Some other things to keep in mind:

Gardner-Webb returns the majority of their offensive starters from last season. And this was an offense that put up 370 yards against the Flames last year.

After speaking with some of Liberty players, it appears that the team took their loss against Gardner-Webb the hardest. One team member told me “We are going to destroy them this season.”

Players to watch:

QB Tyrell Maxwell-This mobile QB sliced open Liberty’s defense last year. If Liberty wants to find success against the Runnin’ Bulldogs this year, it starts with limiting Maxwell.

Gardner-Webb Game

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