So far the games of the year series has lived up to the hype. Midwestern State gladly takes a couple of weeks off from this series, as they limp home, losing to Tarleton 32-44 a week after losing to WT 20-25. Abilene definetly needs the win more than WT. A loss pushes them to the brink of playoff elimination, while a win only gives them slight breathing room. A win for WT virtually assures them a playoff spot, while a loss makes the season finale against Tarleton a de-facto playoff game. So who's got the edge this week?
Offense - Slight, very slight, edge to ACU
This is the top matchup of skill players in the LSC and maybe the nation. Both teams have fine QBs. Keith Null leads the LSC in passing yardage, while Billy Malone leads in passing efficiency. Null has 25 TDs and 7 Ints, Malone has 20 TDs and 2 Ints. Both teams have fine WRs. WT is very deep with Keithon Flemming (at RB), AJ Ruffins, BJ Vickers, Charly Martin, and Kolo Kapanui each with at least 4 TD catches and 9 players with double digit receptions. Abilene is not as deep at WR, but Jerale Badon and Johnny Knox have been more prolific this year, combining to catch 68 passes for 1,045 yds and 11 TDs. Bernard Scott has 17 receptions out of the backfield for 213 yds a couple of TDs. WT's Keithon Flemming keeps defenses on their toes, averaging 97 yds per game on the ground, and 171 all purpose yds. Wayne McKnight backs him up and chips in 33 yds rushing, and 90 all-purpose yards. For ACU, Bernard Scott was expected to come in (from Blinn JC) and do well for the Wildcats, but he's exceeded all but the wildest of expectations, with 142 yds per game rushing (8.0 per carry), 172 all purpose yds per game (and he doesn't do any return duty) and 14 TDs. He's backed up by Kebron Lampkin, averaging 41 yds a game rushing and 6.8 per carry. What gives ACU the slight advantage is their O-Line. They can run block and pass block, and they have been together for a long time. WT's line is good as well, but the Wildcat line is probably the best in the LSC.
Defense - Even
Both teams have good (not great) defenses. WT's defensive Line features end Brandon Swain who leads the LSC with 14 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks. Last year's leader, Travis Carpenter of ACU isn't having as productive a season withon 4 TFL and 2 sacks, but the smaller ACU line has more depth to help him - watch for freshman Fred Thompson. ACU's Cody Stutts is a fine LB, leading the Wildcats with 65 tackles, 4 for losses, 2 sacks and an Int. This WT's strongest position, led by Jared Brock (61 tackles, 9.5 for losses, 2 sacks and an Int) and Steve Allen (52 tackles, 8.5 for losses and an Int). Mark Ford and Eldon Grimslid have also combined for 73 tackles, 8 for losees and 3.5 sacks. The ACU secondary is strong, led by soph Tony Harp with 43 tackles. Harp, along with EJ Whitley, Josh Henry, and Corey Jordan have combined for 7 Ints. WT's Cashmin Thomas has 3 Ints for the Buff's, but is the only starter in the secondary with a pick.
Why ACU should win
- Pass protection - ACU only allowed 5 sacks all year, WT 12
- Penalties - WT leads the league with 122 penalty yds a game. They can overcome that most of the time, but against a top team, it will be much more difficult.
- Turnovers - ACU is plus 13, and has only 8 lost TOs. WT is plus 4 and has 13 lost TO's.
It's a game that could go either way, and a Buffalo win wouldn't be surprising. The only surprise would be if one of these teams wins by more than 14.
Prediction - ACU 31-24