Thursday, September 30, 2010

Game Previews and Predictions Week 6

For the second week in a row, the LSC has four teams ranked in the top 10 AFCA poll, three of which are undefeated. That will change this week as two of the unbeaten squads (ACU and TAMK) will face off in a huge LSC matchup. If that game is close, the loser could remain in the top 10. The MIAA has three teams in the top 25, with Northwest Missouri and Missouri Western at number 7 and 8 respectively. They face off this Saturday in another huge Super Region 4 matchup. The LSC North looks upside down after the first week of divisional play, with preseason favorites at the bottom of the pack, while Northeastern State and East Central find themselves tied with ENMU for the top spot.

Statistically Speaking - Check out Tuesday's post on LSC team and individuals ranking in the NCAA top 10 statistics.

Last Week's Games
Eastern New Mexico 44, Texas A&M-Commerce 21
- The Greyhounds got an early leg up in the LSC North race in defeating the preseason favorite Lions. Wes Wood threw for 437 yards and 5 TDs to lead ENMU. Surprisingly, ENMU outrushed TAMC by a 153 to 135 margin. TAMC's offense struggled again, picking up just 249 yards and scoring just one TD (the defense and special teams each had a TD as well).

Abilene Christian 65, Tarleton State 3 - The Texans suffered the worst loss in team history and were totally dominate by #5 ACU. The Wildcats got TDs from their defense, special teams and (6)offense. ACU's defense allowed just 6 first downs after the first quarter, and two of those came via penalties.

West Texas A&M 37, Angelo State 27 - The Buffs jumped out to a 37-13 halftime lead, but could not generate any offense in the second half. It was enough to top Angelo State, as Josh Neiswander had an uncharacteristically off game. Very surprising tidbit - Neither QB threw a TD pass (they had a combined 19 coming into the game), unless you count INTs returned for TDs by each team.

East Central 23, Southwestern Oklahoma 0 - The Tigers snapped their long losing streak in this defensive struggle. Neither team scored an offensive TD (ECU's TDs were on special teams and defense) and combined for just 418 yards offensively for the day.

Northeastern State 26, Southeastern Oklahoma 24 - This turned out to be one of the most entertaining games of the day, with the lead changing hands 3 times in the final 6 minutes of the game. The Riverhawks started the game winning drive on their own 11 yard line, with 2:22 to play. They methodically drove down the field, converting 3 third downs, and set up Drew Patton for a 20 yard game winning field goal.

Texas A&M-Kingsville 37, Incarnate Word 9 - The Javelinas jumped out to a big lead early on, and cruised to a comfortable win. The defense once again held the opponents to under 200 yards, and the special teams got into the act, scoring a TD in the second quarter. The rushing game picked up 137 yards in the post Winborn-era, scoring four TDs in the game.

Midwestern State 30, Central Oklahoma 24 - Instead of hanging their heads after dropping an overtime game to Incarnate Word, UCO came to play and very nearly handed the Mustangs their first loss of the year. Ethan Sharp's TD pass to Tucker Holland gave UCO a 7 point lead early in the fourth quarter, but MSU responded with two TDs on their next two possessions to avoid the upset.

This week's games
#9 West Texas A&M at Northeastern State
It's not a big surprise that the Buffs have the nations's top offense through 4 games.  They got their running game cranking against ASU, topping the 200 yard mark, plus they have three receivers with a good shot at topping the 1,000 mark for the season.  One troubling number - QB Taylor Harris' TD to Int ratio is just 11-0.  With the meaty portion of their schedule coming up, that number needs to improve.  The Redmen find themselves with a 2-2 record.  They have won two close games, and been blown out twice.  This week should be another blowout loss.  WT 49-17.

Eastern New Mexico at Southwestern Oklahoma
The Greyhounds are moving the ball through the air - no surprise.  Six different receivers are in double digits for receptions and eight different players have caught TD passes.  They are also running it effectively, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 118 per game, making it harder for teams to just play pass defense.  The Bulldogs on the other hand have struggled mightily on offense - they are averaging under 200 yards per game,  have scored just 4 TDs, and were shutout by East Central last week.  ENMU moves to 2-0 in the LSC North, 42-14.

Southeastern Oklahoma at Texas A&M-Commerce
This was supposed to be the game that decided the LSC North title.  Instead these two preseason favorites will fight to stay out of the North cellar.  What has happened to the Lion's offense?  In their last three games, the offense is averaging just 6.7 points and 197 yards per game.  Adam Farkes is completing just 43% of his passes, with 6 interceptions (vs. 1 TD) and has a QB rating of 75.7.  The rushing attack (?) is 12th in the LSC, gaining just 88 yards per game.  For Southeastern Oklahoma, the problem has been their defense.  They are currently last in the LSC, allowing 478.5 yards per game, and teams are scoring 32.5 points per game.  Look for TAMC's woes to continue this weekend, SOSU 31-24.

Angelo State at Tarleton State
Another matchup that looked great at the beginning of the season, but not so much now.  The Rams shut out the vaunted WT offense in the second half last week, but was unable to overcome a 24 point halftime deficit.  They have sported an upper half of the LSC offense (33 pt and 387 yd per game avg) and a mid to lower half defense (28.3 pt and 412 yard avg) to date.  The Texans are coming off of a disastrous rout at the hands of ACU.  They are near the bottom of the LSC in scoring offense (12th, 15.2 pts avg.) and defense (13th, 37.5 pt. avg.).  Look for Josh Neiswander to get back on track for the Rams as Angelo wins comfortably, 38-14.

Incarnate Word at #10 Midwestern State
The Cardinals followed up their first LSC win with a respectable showing against the #6 team in the nation, dropping a 37-9 decision to TAMK.  However, UIW was never in a threatening position, with their offense only able to cross midfield four times, once each in the second and third quarters, and on their final two possessions.  The Mustangs found themselves in a real battle at Central Oklahoma, and needed to fourth quarter touchdowns to come from behind for the win.  A strong rushing attack once again led the way, as the Mustangs gained 263 yards on the ground, highlighted by Keidrick Jackson's 69 yard TD run to tie the game at 24.  Look for the Mustangs to come out strong and put to rest any questions that may have arisen last week - MSU 42-14.

East Central at Central Oklahoma
You'll have to excuse the Tigers if they are a little giddy this week.  Ending a 16 game losing streak is reason enough, but to shut out their rival and hold them to just 224 yards is just icing on the cake.  They better be ready to play Saturday, because the Bronchos look like a young team that is rounding into form.  Their official record is 1-3, but they could easily be 3-1 or even 4-0.  Josh Birmingham continues to run the ball very well, averaging 114.5 yards per game with 6 TDs. Ethan Sharp has buried his opening game performance and has thrown for 255 yds per game with 7 TDs and 3 Ints in the last three games.  Five different receivers have 10 or more catches, and six have at least one TD reception.  The Bronchos should be able to fatten up those numbers this week - UCO 38-10.

#5 Abilene Christian at #6 Texas A&M-Kingsville - Game of the Year (Vol. 1)
Outside of the playoffs, you don't see very many match ups of two top 6 ranked teams.  Both opened 2010 with solid wins on the road against MIAA teams that were supposed to compete for the playoffs.  Since then they have taken care of business against their LSC foes.  So how does our first "Game of the Year" stack up?

Offense - ACU leads the conference in scoring (47.2) while TAMK is 7th (23.5).  The Wildcats are 2nd in rushing yards (171.5), Kingsville is 5th (141.2).  ACU is 3rd in passing yards (268.2), while the Javelinas are 8th (198.2).  Overall, ACU is 4th in total yards (439.8) and TAMK is 8th (339.5).

ACU's Mitchell Gale tops the LSC in passing efficiency (169.2).  He has completed 72% of his passes for 1,015 yards with 11 TDs and 0 Ints.  His favorite target has been Edmund Gates (19-327 and 3 TDs).  Kendrick Johnson and Raymond Radaway are also more than capable if teams focus too much on Gates.  Darrell Cantu-Harkless has emerged as another offensive weapon, with Reggie Brown out for the season with an injury, and Darryl Richardson nicked up a bit.  He has rushed for 219 yards, averaging more than 10 yards per carry, has another 118 receiving yards, and a combined 5 TDs.  The ACU offensive line might be the best in the LSC.

For the Javelinas, Nate Poppell is 8th among LSC starter in passing efficiency (117.7), completing 61% of his passes for 736 yards with 4 TDs and 4 Ints.  He has some talented receivers to throw to - Ryan Lincoln, Delashaun Dean and Robert Armstrong have combined for 50 receptions for 532 yards - while Sherman Batiste has yet to have his breakout game.  The running game was the strength of the offense coming into the season, but with Fred Winborn no longer on the team (leading the LSC in rushing with 131 yds per game when dismissed), this is more of a question mark than strength.  The team did rush for 137 yards and 4 TDs last week, with Connell Davis starting and getting help from Jonathan Woodson and Myron Brew.  The offensive line is a sturdy and experienced group and will benenfit greatly if Tim Byerly returns to the starting lineup.

Defense - So far in 2010, these are the top two defenses in the LSC.  Texas A&M-Kingsville leads the league in scoring (5.8), total defense (134.2), rushing defense (24.5) and pass defense (109.8).  In those same categories, ACU is second (12.2), second (240.2), second (66.5) and third (173.8).

The Javelinas have yet to allow a team to gain 200 yards in a game and twice holding opponents to under 100 yards.  They did not allow a touchdown for 189 minutes, have been great in the red zone (1-6) and have held opponents to a paltry 25% conversion rate on third downs.  Ends Matt Romig and Michael Talamantez have combined for 8 sacks, while linebackers Marcus Sanders, Tressor Batiste and Hector Sobers have 60 tackles, including 9 for losses.

Over the past three weeks, the Wildcats have been just as stingy, allowing just 173 yards and 7.7 points per game over that period.  Aston Whiteside and Fred Thompson have had a bit of a slow start, with just two sacks between them, but they could easily double that in any given quarter.  Kevin Washington has been huge, leading the team with 28 tackles, with 7.5 for losses, and 2.5 sacks.  The secondary has been busy with the starters combining for 58 tackles good for second, third, and two tied for fourth on the team in tackles).

Special Teams -  ACU has been great on special teams this year.  The Wildcats lead the LSC in both kick returns (28.0 yd average) and punt returns (24.1 yd average with 4 TDs).  They have blocked thee punts (all against NSU) and a field goal.  The Javelinas have been okay, 4th in kick returns (24.7) but only 11th in punt returns (6.3).

Outlook - This has all the makings of a defensive slugfest.  So of course that means a 45-42 shootout right?  The Wildcats have shown better balance between the offense and defense and after a solid game one win over Washburn have dominated their opponents.  The Javelinas have relied on their defense to carry them, but outside of a mistake filled performance at East Central, the offense hasn't been that bad.  With a week of good practices for the first time in two weeks, look for a performance in line with what they did in Maryville in week one.  If they can do that again, they should win this one.  But if they slip up in one area, look for ACU to take advantage.  Flip of the coin on this one.....and we'll go with ACU in a hard-hitting war, ACU 24-21.

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Lone Star Conference

Angelo State University

Cameron University

Eastern New Mexico University

Texas A&M-Commerce

Tarleton State University

Texas A&M-Kingsville

Texas Woman's College

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

Western New Mexico