Friday, October 8, 2010

Game Previews and Predictions Week 7

Halfway through the season and let's hand out some mid-term grades. (In order of preseason power poll).

  1. WT - (A) Dropped a close game at #1 Grand Valley, still on course for playoffs and showdown with ACU on 11/6.
  2. ACU - (A+) Two wins over top 10 teams on the road.  Defense as advertised, offense better than expected.
  3. TAMK - (A-) Great win over defending national champion and an improved defense, but offense has been choppy.
  4. TSU - (D) Injuries have led to unexpected youth movement, but with return of Stephens at QB, can TSU pull off a 2009 WT-like turnaround?
  5. MSU - (A) Undefeated, but taken to the wire the past two weeks.  Running game has been strong, which has led to decreased passing yards for Eskridge.
  6. TAMC - (C-) Offense not producing, defense not up to usual standards, wins against teams with a combined 1-9 record.
  7. ASU - (C) Supposed to contend for playoff spot, cannot lose a game like last week.
  8. SOSU - (D) Have to find a way to win close LSC North games.
  9. ENMU - (C-) How does a team look so good one week against a decent team, and so bad against a winless squad?
  10. UCO - (B) Close shave against ECU, but held on for win.  Were in ballgame in all three losses.
  11. UIW - (B) Only one win, but made people take notice with OT battle at Midwestern State.
  12. ECU - (B-) Not competitive in first three weeks, handled SWO solidly and nearly stole one at UCO.
  13. NSU - (A) Winning close games, have been respectable against two top 10 teams.
  14. SWO - (C) After ECU loss, SWO not favored in any remaining games.  Nice rebound against ENMU.
UCO 31, ECU 28
The Tigers topped the 400 yard offensive mark and were in position to tie the game - twice - in the final seconds, but Matt Berrey missed a 44 yard field goal attempt, and a subsequent 30 yard attempt following a UCO substituion infraction. Tyler Vanderzee threw for 320 yards and 2 TDs to lead the Tiger offense. For UCO, Ethan Sharp had another good day, throwing for 268 yards and 2 TDs, and Josh Birmingham continued his great freshman season, picking up 88 yards and 2 TDs rushing and another 22 receiving yards.

WTAM 34, NSU 22
A 58 TD pass from Kenny Davis to Trey McVey pulled the Riverhawks to within 27-22, midway through the fourth quarter. The Buffs turned the ball over on their next possession and NSU had a chance to take the lead. But of course, the WT defense held, and a final Kelvin Thompson TD run gave WT a more comfortable final margin. Playing without their top receivers, WT still managed 383 yards through the air, with youngsters Trevore Hammergren and Lance Ratliff combining for 17 catches and 287 receiving yards. Kelvin Thompson rushed for 106 yards and 3 TDs. Shad Baichtal led the defense with 14 tackles, 6 for losses, 2 sacks, 1 broken up pass, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

SWO 21, ENMU 10
It was a big enough surprise for SWO to win the game, but to hold ENMU to 10 points? Remarkable. Icing on the cake? SWO outgained ENMU by a 430-340 margin. The Bulldogs ran for 252 yards, led by former ASU Ram Dwight Pete (101 yds, 2 TDs) and QB Dustin Stenta (81 yds, 1 TD) and controlled the clock for nearly 40 of the game.

TAMC 19, SOSU 14
The Lions jumped out to a 19-0 halftime lead, scoring on a 70 yard fumble recovery and putting together two long scoring drives. SOSU stormed back with a 2 Logan Turner to Ryan Shelley TD passes, but had three drives bog down in TAMC territory in the fourth quarter.

MSU 38, UIW 31 (OT)
This wasn't supposed to happen. #10 MSU, playing at home, was supposed to handle the upstart Cardinals with relative ease. Of course, it didn't quite turn out that way. The first half saw the teams trade the lead five times, with the Mustangs taking a 21-17 advantage into the half. The would add to that margin with 10 third quarter points. But UIW kept plugging away and with just 1:03 to play in the game, tied the game on a 5 yd Donald Gies TD reception. In overtime, MSU struck quickly with Zack Eskridge tossing a 23 yard TD pass to Jared Freeman. On UIW's possession, the Cardinals picked up a first down on the 11 yard line. Two plays later they were faced with a 3rd and four on the 5, but two incomplete passes ended their improbable upset attempt.

TSU 37, ASU 34
Prior to the season, this score would not have raised eyebrows, much less be considered an upset. But Tarleton entered the game winless and reeling, while Angelo State was coming off of a respectable loss to WTAM and a heavy favorite to win. The first 55 minutes of the game was going as expected - the Rams had a 34-20 lead, had outgained TSU 390-320 and had pretty well shut down the Texans since the first quarter. The last five minutes were a complete meltdown. Tarleton took over on their own 34 yard line after a Ram punt, scoring two plays later. ASU stared their next drive on their own four after an miscue on the kick return. First play from scrimmage a fumble, which Tarleton recovered. Evan Robertson scored on the next play. All tied up at 34. ASU next possession - three plays and out. Tarleton takes over on their 23 and drives down the field, settling for a 27 yard FG to take a 37-34 lead. Another ASU fumble on 3rd and 10, and Tarleton runs out the clock and steals a win over ASU. Nick Stephens had a good game in his return from injury, completing 22 of 39 passes for 392 yards and 2 TDS, saving the best for last, going 4-5 for 132 yards and a TD in the wild 4th quarter comeback.

ACU 31, TAMK 24
The Game of the Year that almost wasn't. ACU bolted right out of the gate, starting the game off with a 67 yard opening drive taking a 7-0 lead just 3 minutes into the game. The defenses would slow things down for a while as the teams would trade punts on the next 7 possions. ACU however struck again with under 2 minutes to go in the half, as Mitchell Gale hit Edmund Gates for a 26 yard TD pass, and ACU took a 14-0 lead into the half. The Wildcats would add another TD, moving 92 yards downfield, taking a 21-0 lead and the rout appeared to be on. The Javelinas would finally get on the board as Connell Davis took a pitch around the corner, going 59 yards for a TD. The teams traded FGs and another ACU TD put the Wildcat lead back up to 21 with 11:19 in the game. TAMK would answer with a quick scoring drive set up by a 41 yard kick return. ACU could not get a first down on their next possession, and had the ensuing punt blocked by the Javelinas. They would score two plays later, pulling them to within 7 points, 31-24. The defenses for both teams took over from that point, with ACU unable to gain a first down on their next three possessions, and the Javelinas unable to find the end zone. Mitchell Gale threw for 417 yards and 3 TDs to lead the ACU offense. Connell Davis led all rushers with 100 yards on the ground.

This weeks games

While the Lions won last week and the Riverhawks lost, NSU probably comes into this week's game feeling more upbeat. They played WT tough, and were driving the ball with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter. TAMC meanwhile jumped out to a 19-0 lead over SOSU and had to hold on for dear life, narrowly winning 19-14 at home. Neither team has lit up the scoreboard offenseively, and while the Lions defense has better numbers than NSU, the Riverhawks have played a tougher schedule. NSU takes a close one and a big step toward a possible LSC North title, NSU 27-24.

So was last week a fluke, or did SWO possibly take a big step back toward respectability? The defense played lights out for the second straight week, and the offense joined the party breaking the 400 yard mark for the first time this year (they were averaging 193 yds coming into the game). The Savage Storm meanwhile could not complete a second half comeback, seeing their final three drives end on the TAMC 20, 36, and 9 yard line. Look for SOSU to bounce back and win, but not by a huge margin. SOSU 27-14.

UCO's offense has been suprisingly good this year, averaging 30.6 points and 389 yards per game. Josh Birmingham is leading the LSC in rushing and all purpose yards. Ethan Sharp keeps putting up big numbers, and is fifth in the LSC in passing, and has three receivers in the top 10 in the LSC in receptions. After seeing what the SWO offense was able to do last week against the Greyhounds, they must be very excited. So was last week just one of those games for ENMU? The Greyhounds struggled on both sides of the ball, being outgained by the previously winless Bulldogs and having the ball for just 20 minutes of the game. Look for UCO to continue their improvement, but ENMU won't make it easy. UCO 35-31.

#10 TAMK at ASU
If the Javelinas are disappointed over last week's loss, the Rams must be devastated. TAMK took some shots from ACU and mounted a spirited comeback that came up just a bit short. ASU meanwhile, collapsed, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in their loss to previously winless Tarleton State. The Javelinas still have the nation's top rushing and total defense statistically, but ACU's Mitchell Gale was able to light them up for 400+ yards passing. That could play to ASU's advantage, but Josh Neiswander's numbers are off a bit from last year (4th in the LSC in yardage (238.5), but 7th in efficiency rating (123.2). On the other side of the ball, ASU is giving up 30 points and 423 yards per game. That could be good news for a Javelina offense still trying to find its groove. Especially enticing could be the Ram's pass defense, that is allowing 310.5 yards per game, but does have 10 interceptions. This is a game that ASU could take a surprise win, but the Javelinas should be playing with a purpose. TAMK 31-21.

TSU at #7 WTAM
The Texans got a very much needed win last week, stealing it from Angelo State at the end. They find themselves at 1-4, but can look right across the field Saturday for an example of a team given up for dead in midseason that turned it around and became the hottest team in the league at season's end. Don't expect WT to play along. They survived a scare in Tahlequah, topping the Riverhawks 34-22 in a game where NSU had a chance to take a late lead. Both of those games should serve as a wakeup call for the Buffs. They will take the highest scoring LSC offense against the worst scoring defense, the best passing offense against a defense giving up 243 yards, and a running game that is averaging almost 40 yards more on the ground than the Texans. If the Texans can play like they did over the final 5 minutes against ASU, they will be right in this game. Too bad for them WT probably won't be as accommodating, WT continues to handle TSU, 42-21.

Almost. UIW almost knocked off Midwestern State, and ECU almost knocked off Central Oklahoma. Each team comes into the game 1-4, but both have to feel as though they are improved over last year's teams. ECU is playing much better over the last two weeks, while UIW has had three weeks of good ball. The difference is that UIW's opponents have been higher caliber. Expect a close game, with the advantage to the home team. UIW 24-21.

#8 MSU at #5 ACU - Game of the Year (Round 2)
There will be one undefeated team left in the LSC after this one.

Offensively, ACU is tied with WT in scoring at 44 points per game, while MSU is right behind scoring 42. In total yards MSU is second at 492, leading the league with 248 yards rushing and 5th in passing at 244 per game. ACU puts up 440 per game, 3rd in passing (298) and 5th in rushing (142). Plenty of outstanding players on both squads, led by their QBs. Mitchell Gale (1st in passing efficiency 165.0, 14 TDs, 1,432 yds) for ACU and Zack Eskridge (2nd in pass efficiency 151.5, 10 TDs, 1,091 yds) for MSU. Gale's favorite target has been Edmund Gates (30-462, 4 TDs), while David Little leads MSU with 32 catches for 362 yards and 4 TDs. Leading the Mustang running game is Marcus Mathis - 4th in the LSC in rushing (83.4 yds per game, 6.0 per carry). Abilene Christian may have the best offensive line in the LSC, giving the Wildcats the overall advantage offensively.

Defensively, ACU has the #2 defense in the LSC in scoring (14.6), total yards (269.4), rushing defense (74.6) and 5th in passing defense (194.8). The Mustangs are not far behind, 3rd in scoring (17.4), total yards (288.4), rushing (98.2) and 2nd in passing defense. ACU has the more well known names - Aston Whiteside, Kevin Washington, Fred Thompson, Darrien Williams, and Richard Havins. The Mustangs counter with Ryan Craven, Matt Ellerbrock and J. D.Corcoran as their leaders.

This game should continue where last year left off, another close, hard hitting battle. On paper the teams look very evenly matched, both very strong on both sides of the ball. The biggest difference is who they have played so far. Midwestern State opened with three easy wins, but struggled much more than they should have against Central Oklahoma and Incarnate Word. Abilene Christian meanwhile has easily handled the teams they should, and won two road games against top 10 teams. For that reason, we will take them in this one. ACU 28-24.

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