This time, ODU has expectations and a heightened sense of purpose. The Monarchs are in postseason for the last time, on their way out the door to the FBS. They are a top-four seed and are positioned for a deep playoff run.
ODU faces an opponent in Coastal Carolina (8-4) from a lesser-rated league (the Big South), but that conference has as many playoff teams remaining in the field as the CAA (2). The Chanticleers are playing with house money, since they're expected to be a tuneup before a potential rematch against Georgia Southern. Coastal already has a playoff game under its belt, a road win at Bethune-Cookman.
Old Dominion is No. 1 nationally in total offense (538.27 ypg) and No. 2 in scoring offense (44.45 ppg) operating out of a go-go, spread attack. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke leads FCS in total offense (412.27 ypg) and has passed for 4,158 yards and 35 touchdowns, completing 68 percent of his passes. Nick Mayers leads a stable of receivers, and Tyree Lee (751 yards) averages 5.4 yards per carry. Coastal operates a balanced attack that averages 34.2 points and 429.2 yards per game. QB Aramis Hillary has thrown for 2,313 yards and 18 TDs and rushed for 522 yards. Five receivers have at least 27 catches, led by Matt Hazel (52). The Chanticleers' O-line has allowed only 18 sacks.
Despite improvements, the Monarchs are ranked in the bottom half of FCS in most defensive categories: scoring (28.36 ppg); total defense (389.82 ypg); rushing defense (161.36 ypg); pass defense (228.45 ypg). Part of that is due to first-year coordinator
Advantage: Coastal Carolina.
Brian Scott's offense is always dangerous, with Heinicke pulling the trigger, making checks and extending plays. Dee's defense is more athletic than efficient, as he mixes blitzes with base formations. The Monarchs came from behind in their last two wins, which speaks to in-game adjustments and players absorbing the changes. Coastal rebounded from a 2-4 start and has won its last six — a tribute to first-year head coach Joe Moglia and his new staff getting the players to buy into new schemes and philosophies. Staff longevity carries the day this time.
ODU is 11-2 at home the past two seasons, its two losses to nominal CAA champs and automatic qualifiers Villanova and
PREDICTION: ODU 41-24.