Thursday, October 14, 2010

Game Previews and Predictions Week 8

Okay, if the NCAA won't do it we will.  The first (un)official Regional Rankings for Super Region 4 are now being released, exclusively for our LSC Scoop readers.  Our calculations are pretty simple and straightforward - the rankings are a combination of a teams D2 win/loss record, the opponents win/loss record and the opponents opponents win/loss record.  One caveat, the opponents W/L and Opponents Opponents W/L is for the entire season, not just for teams played to date.  This will temper down some of the weekly volatility and reduces the time spent calculating the rankings.

Rank - Team - D2 W/L - Points

1. Central Missouri (6-0) - .727
2. Abilene Christian (6-0) - .698
3. Northwest Missouri (4-1) - .672
4. Missouri Western (5-1) - .657
5. Texas A&M Kingsville (5-1) - .635
6. West Texas A&M (5-1) - .631
7. Midwestern State (5-1) - .627
8. Humboldt State (3-0) - .624
9. Emporia State (5-2) - .615
10. Washburn (3-3) - .587

Other LSC Schools
16. Northeastern State (3-3) - .519
20. Incarnate Word (2-3) - .486
21. Angelo State (2-3).485
22. Southeastern Ok (2-4) - .441
23. Eastern New Mexico (2-3) - .436
24. Tarleton State (1-4) - .427
25. Southwestern Ok (1-5) - .404
26. Central Oklahoma (2-4) - .397
27. Texas A&M-Commerce (2-4) - .382
28. East Central (1-5) - .381

Washburn has the nation's toughest schedule (both for the entire season and for just games played so far).  That is why they are ranked despite a 3-3 record.  West Texas A&M has the toughest remaining schedule of the SR4 teams (11th in the nation) - its remaining opponents have a combined .655 winning percentage.  Texas A&M-Commerce has the 134th toughest schedule for the entire season, 3rd from the bottom.  Their opponents have just a .327 winning percentage.  Central Oklahoma is one spot ahead of them (.364 winning percentage).  The Lions also have the second easiest remaining schedule in the nation, with future opponents posting just a .250 winning percentage.

Last Week's Action
West Texas A&M 48, Tarleton State 17
The Buffaloes punted just two times in dismantling Tarleton State.  Taylor Harris threw for 419 yards and 3 TDs, and Tanner Marsh added 85 yards and another TD pass as WT surpassed 500 yards in the air.  The defense limited Nick Stephens to just 11 of 33 passing for 148 yards, and kept the Texans' ground game in check as well. Tarleton scored two late touchdowns to temper the margin a bit.

Southeastern Oklahoma 42, Southwestern Oklahoma 35 (2OT)
It took two overtimes, but the Savage Storm outlasted Southwestern Oklahoma.  The Bulldogs scored 18 points in the final 5:14 of regulation, overcoming a 28-10 deficit to force the extra time.  Dustin Stenta led SWO 85 yards for the first TD, then 53 yards for the second TD (and 2 pt conversion) and finally 51 yards for the game tying 47 yard field goal.  The defense did its part, forcing SOSU into 3 and outs on two consecutive possessions.  Once in OT, SWO struck first, on Stenta's TD pass to Samuel Burnett to go up 35-28.  SOSU would respond 6 plays later, with Logan Turner hooking up with Robbie Morris on a 4 yard TD pass on fourth and goal.  In the second overtime, it was Turner and Ryan Shelley hooking up for their second TD of the day to take the lead.  SWO was unable to respond and SOSU won a thriller.  On the day, Turner threw 5 TD passes, and Jamaal Evans ran for 131 yards in place of Baylen Laury, who did not play.

Incarnate Word 27, East Central 13
Another big fourth quarter comeback, but Incarnate Word turner their's into a victory.  East Central held a 13-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals would score 21 unanswered points, improving to 2-4 on the season.  All three scores were set up by great field position - an 11 yard punt gave UIW the ball on the ECU 39 for the first TD, a fumble on the ensuing kickoff put them on the ECU 33 for the second, and a sack of Tyler Vanderzee on the ECU 19 set up UIW for their final TD. ECU had opportunities to take control of the game early, but the young UIW defense stiffened up and forced two FGs on two Tiger red zone opportunities.

Texas A&M-Kingsville 28, Angelo State 21
The Javelinas defeated Angelo State in a back and forth game in which neither team led by more than 7 points.  The Rams led 14-7 at halftime and again 21-14 with 8:22 to go in the third quarter, but the Javelinas kept coming back.  For the second week in a row, the Javelina special teams came up big with a blocked field goal attempt with just over 4 minutes remaining in the ballgame.  The offense would take advantage, as Nate Poppell and Robert Armstrong would connect on a 62 yard third down bomb, giving the Javelinas the lead with a minute and a half to play.  The Rams would get down to the Javelinas 32 yard line, but the drive ended on downs.

Eastern New Mexico 49, UCO 31
Early on, this game had all the makings of a classic.  The teams would trade the lead 8 times in the game, but Jesse Poku's third TD reception of the game would give ENMU a 35-31 lead that they would hold for the remainder of the game.  For the first time in recent memory, the Greyhounds gained more yards rushing than passing - 229 on the ground to 194 passing.  Tillman Stevens had three interceptions, returning one 62 yards for ENMU's final score.  Josh Birmingham continues to have a spectacular freshman season, with 148 yards and 2 TDs rushing.

Northeastern State 38, Texas A&M-Commerce 7
The margin, not the outcome, of this game was very surprising.  The Riverhawks outplayed Texas A&M-Commerce in every facet of the game, outgaining the Lions by a 487-188 margin, winning the turnover battle, controlling the clock, and converting once in the red zone.  No cheap TDs either - just one NSU possession started in TAMC territory, and NSU could only muster a FG from that one.  The five Riverhawk TD drives averaged 11 plays, 73 yards and over 4 minutes of possession time.  Meanwhile, their defense just shut down TAMC.  After the Lion's lone TD pulled them to within 10-7 early in the second quarter, TAMC had 8 possessions - 5 punts, 2 INTs, and the other ended as the first half expired.

Abilene Christian 31, Midwestern State 28
This matchup of top 10 teams lived up to its billing.  The Wildcats again jumped out to a first half lead, but MSU kept within striking distance, trailing just 14-6 at the half as Jose Martinez hit a 31 yd FG as time expired.  The third quarter belonged to the Mustangs, as they scored two TDs, while giving up just a FG, and leading ACU 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter.  ACU would respond with a 69 yard TD run by Darrell Cantu-Harless, putting ACU back on top 24-21.  The Mustangs answered back with a 10 play, 80 yard drive capped off by a 35 yard TD pass from Zack Eskridge to David Little.  Once again, ACU came back, this time with a time consuming 12 play, 68 yard drive, giving them their final lead of the night, 31-28.  On the next possession, MSU had four straight incomplete passes, but ACU could not take advantage, missing a 40 yard FG.  MSU had one last chance with 1:08 to play and moved the ball to their own 44 yard line, but Kevin Swanson fumbled the ball and ACU took over with 6 seconds to play.  The stats were as close as the game - ACU outgained MSU by a 461 to 418 margin, but ACU won the turnover matchup 2-0 and held to ball on offense for more than 35 minutes.

This Week's Games
Southeastern Oklahoma at Central Oklahoma
Long time rivals matching up for one final time in the LSC.  Both teams come into the contest with 2-4 records, but SOSU may have built some momentum with last week's 2 OT win.  The key to this game could be which offense is able to exploit the opposing defense's weakness the best.  UCO is  giving up 203 yards per game rushing, while SOSU has allowed 316 yards per game passing.  Look for UCO to win a high scoring game - UCO 35-31.

Eastern New Mexico at East Central
Another matchup of teams that had very different games last week.  ENMU used defense and a strong rushing attack to pull away from UCO, while ECU gave up 21 unanswered points dropping a home contest to Incarnate Word.  Can ECU's defense (which is a respectable 9th in the LSC in yards allowed, and 6th in scoring) keep the ENMU offense in check?  More likely, it will be ENMU's defense (7th in scoring) that will prevent the Tigers from matching scores with them.  ENMU 31-21.

Tarleton State at Texas A&M-Commerce
Two teams desperate for not only a win, but just a solid performance.  Both squads were manhandled last weekend and both want to put on a good show for this televised (in the Dallas market) game.  Tarletons' offense is an uncharacteristic 9th in yardage (318), but the defenses has been even more disappointing (13th, 415 yards).  TAMC's defense hasn't been much better (8th, 396 yards) and the offense has been even worse (13th, 256 yards). Who bounces back in this one?  We'll go with the team with the better QB this week.  Tarleton 21-17.

Northeastern State at Southwestern Oklahoma
The Riverhawks have emerged at the midseason point with an early LSC North lead and their destiny in their own hands.  While they do not possess dominant statistics for the season (out scored by 7 points and outgained by 95 yards per game), they have beaten the preseason favorites to win the North division.  The Bulldogs meanwhile had a chance to put themselves in the middle of the race, but came up just short losing to SOSU in double OT (a team that NSU beat on a last second FG).  Look for NSU to run the ball effectively, control the clock and take another step toward a divisional title.  NSU 31-17.

#5 Abilene Christian at Incarnate Word
After taking on, and defeating two top 10 teams, the Wildcats get a breather with a trip down to San Antonio and Incarnate Word.  Right?  Well the Cardinals are 2-4, and have losses to Southeastern Oklahoma and NAIA Langston.  But...they also have wins over UCO and a gutsy comeback over ECU and in their most impressive game of the year, dropped an OT thriller at Midwestern State.  So if they can play MSU almost evenly, they certainly could do the same at home to ACU.  Possibly in theory, but ACU is too focused and playing too well to let that happen.  Look for ACU to jump out early and squelch any UIW attempt at keeping the game close - ACU 45-17.

Angelo State at #15 Midwestern State
Similar to Tarleton and Texas A&M-Commerce, these are two teams desperate for a win.  The reason is totally different though.  These teams are not try to save lost seasons, they are trying to stay in the race for the playoffs. Despite a 2-3 record, Angelo State still has an outside shot at the playoffs, but they need to win out, and probably get some help down the road.  Midwestern State only has one loss and is nationally ranked, but still has showdowns with West Texas A&M and Texas A&M-Kingsville in coming weeks, so they cannot afford to slip up in this game.  Outside of rushing defense, the Mustangs top the Rams in every statistical category.  Zack Eskridge should have a big game, and the Mustangs should stay on track for those showdowns coming up - MSU 42-24.

#7 West Texas A&M at #9 Texas A&M-Kingsville - Game of the Year Round 3
The Buffaloes come into this game playing well - dominating Tarleton 48-17, and upset that the Texans picked up two late TDs.  The Javelinas had to come from behind to take a 28-21 decision at Angelo State, winning the game with a play they could not connect on against ACU the week before.

This looks to be a matchup of WT's offense vs. TAMK's defense.  The Buffs boast the nation's top offense in passing (439) and total yards (567) and 2nd in scoring (44.7).  Taylor Harris has completed 174-279 passes for 2,409 yards and 15 TDs, but also has 10 interceptions.  He has three receivers averaging over 80 yards per game receiving (Tyson Williams, Brittan Golden and Stephen Burton).  The running game has been good at times, but inconsistent.  The Javelinas are no longer the top defense in the nation.  After facing two quality offenses the past two weeks, they are now second in yards allowed (218) and third in scoring (12.5).  Both of those marks will be severely challenged this week.  They still lead the country in rushing defense (35 yds per game), but are 51st versus the pass (223 yds per game).  Matt Romig, who missed last weeks game, is tops in the LSC with 1.1 sacks per game, and also averages 1.4 tackles for losses from his defensive end position.  Linebackers Marcus Sanders and Tressor Baptiste top the team in tackles, with a combined 78, 9.5 for losses and 2.5 sacks.

But it may the other matchup that determines the game.  TAMK averages a modes 348 yards per game, 125 rushing and 223 passing.  They have parlayed that into 24 points per game.  In the three games since Fred Winborn was dismissed from the team, Connell Davis has averaged 71 yards per game rushing. Nate Poppell has struggled at times at the QB position, but has been strong in crunch time, with 6 of his 8 TD passes coming in the second half of ballgames. Robert Armstrong has emerged as a quality threat with 21 receptions for 291 yards, including the game winning TD against Angelo State.  The Buffalo defense is 37th nationally in yards allowed (310 yds) and 57th in scoring (22 pts per game). Teams are rushing for 107 yds per game and passing for 202.  Simi Kuli returned last week after missing two games due to legal problems, but now Bryan Braman has been suspended indefinitely while he deals with drug related issues of his own.  Shad Baichtal has stepped up his game and leads the team with 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.  Tae Evans is the team leader in tackles (48) and interceptions (3)

So what does this game come down to?  Will WT be able to pass the ball over the field?  Will TAMK get pressure on Taylor Harris and force errors?  Can TAMK get any consistency out of their offense, or will the WT defense force turnovers?  Will special teams mistakes and big plays play a factor?  Look for WT do what ACU did a couple weeks back, jump out early, and pass the ball like crazy.  Look for TAMK to move the ball better than the past two weeks, and score some points.  In the end, look for a Buffalo win, setting up a showdown with MSU next weekend.  WT 35-28.

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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