KENNESAW -- Kennesaw State will host Monmouth on Saturday in a game that will go a long way toward determining who wins the Big South Conference championship.
Fifth-ranked Kennesaw State (7-1, 2-0) is looking for its third straight conference title. As for Monmouth (6-2, 3-0), if it had not had to play the Owls the last two years, then the Hawks would have been the ones looking to three-peat.
In four previous meetings, Monmouth has yet to find a way to beat Kennesaw State, having been outscored 175-65, including 103-35 the last two years. Those two seasons, when the game was later in the schedule, the Owls' win over the Hawks was the conference clincher.
Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon expects Monmouth's players to be playing with a chip on their shoulders.
"They are an awfully good football team," Bohannon said. "They are well-coached and they are, by far, the best team we've played this year. They are going to come in here and play their best game."
Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Kennesaw State and Monmouth are two of three teams that have not lost in Big South play, along with Campbell.
The Owls and Hawks are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the conference in total offense (454.9 yards per game to 453.5), rushing offense (369.5/196.9), rush defense (81.1/104.5), total defense (258.6/356.2) and scoring defense (14.2/25.8).
Monmouth also has two of the Big South's biggest offensive weapons in quarterback Kenji Behar and running back Pete Guerriero.
Behar leads the conference in passing, having thrown for 2,042 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. In two meetings against Kennesaw State, he has combined to complete 27 of 44 passes for 296 yards and two interceptions, including a 12-of-20, 84-yard showing last season.
Bohannon said he has seen a lot of improvement from Behar since the teams' last meeting.
"He's more consistent," Bohannon said. "He doesn't have as many negative plays, and he's using his feet well."
Guerriero leads the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing with 1,022 yards and eight touchdowns. Averaging 127.8 yards per game, Guerriero is coming off a career-high 221-yard performance against Charleston Southern last week.
Guerriero ran for 141 yards against Kennesaw State two weeks ago, but he was held to 33 yards last year, and it will be important for the Owls to not let him get going.
"He's been good the whole time he's been there," Bohannon said. "On any play, he can take it to the house."
Kennesaw State is coming off a game against North Alabama in which it ran for 490 yards, while not completing a pass. While Monmouth's defense has been strong against the run, it is last in the Big South in pass defense, allowing 251.8 yards per game.
Bronson Rechsteiner continues to lead Kennesaw State in rushing with 575 yards and five touchdowns, but unlike the Guerriero-led Monmouth attack, he will not be the only one keyed upon. Shaq Terry, T.J. Reed, Antavious Greer and Kevin Ficklin all have outside speed and can break a big play at any time, while quarterback Daniel David has rushed for 405 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Though the winner of Saturday's game will have the inside track to winning the conference, it could be decided in the coming weeks when the victor faces Campbell. Kennesaw State will travel to face the Camels in Buies Creek, North Carolina, next week, while Monmouth will head there the week after.
MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY
Active military and first responders, including police, EMS, rescuers and firefighters, can receive a free ticket for Saturday's game with each valid identification card. Friends and family of the honoree can receive a discounted $5 ticket, which will be redeemable at the Fifth Third Bank Stadium box office.
ON THE AIR
The game will be broadcast on ESPN3. It can be heard on 1230 AM and 106.3 FM Atlanta's Sports X, or through the TuneIn app.