(STATS) - Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon believes there's a higher level of performance in his team - an impressive proposition considering it has climbed to the No. 2 in the FCS.
He hopes it arrives Saturday because the Owls are treating their visit north to Monmouth as though the playoffs are underway.
With a win, Kennesaw will secure a second straight unbeaten season in the Big South Conference and its automatic bid to the playoffs. The Owls (8-0, 4-0) have won eight straight games since a season-opening FBS loss to Georgia State.
"It's that time of year. You know what I mean?" Bohannon said. "They (the players) understand it. We do have kids that have been here. They understand where we are and what we're trying to accomplish. You get to this time of year, to me it's like playoff season."
Monmouth has likely latched onto that concept as well. The Hawks (7-2, 3-0) also seek the Big South's automatic bid because they probably won't have a strong enough resume to earn an at-large bid to the playoffs, like last season.
Kennesaw would have a better chance to enter the playoffs as an at-large team, but with a loss to Monmouth, it may have to beat No. 8 Jacksonville State in a big nonconference game on Nov. 17.
Winning what's basically the War at the Shore near the New Jersey coast is the focus.
Kennesaw has outscored opponents by a combined 404-73 during their winning streak, yet Bohannon believes "we haven't hit that next level of what we're capable of, but I think the last few weeks have been encouraging as far as that goes. Obviously, this time of year, we've got to go play our best."
Monmouth also is surging with five straight wins. The Hawks have the offensive weapons to match the speed and firepower of Kennesaw, whose triple option ranks second in the FCS in rushing offense.
The Hawks would clinch at least a share of the title by beating Kennesaw, but they may still need to win at Gardner-Webb (3-6, 2-1) on Nov. 17 to clinch the automatic playoff bid. They dropped last year's showdown with Kennesaw 52-21 on the final day of the regular season, committing five turnovers and failing to contain quarterback Chandler Burks.
"I think last year's experience will really help these players," Monmouth coach Kevin Callahan told the Asbury Park Press. "They understand the type of game it is, they understand how the game is going to be played. And when they really look at it and break it apart, they see what caused the game to get away from us."