Thursday, October 21, 2010

Game Previews and Predictions Week 9

We are getting down to the nitty-gritty now.  Wins become more important, and losses are magnified.  The NCAA will release their first regional rankings on November 1, but by then we should have a pretty good idea of where the teams stack up.  Here's how we have teams ranked right now:

1. Central Missouri  7-0 (1) - .721
2. Abilene Christian 7-0 (2) - .699
3. Northwest Missouri 5-1 (3) - .678
4. Texas A&M-Kingsville 6-1 (5) - .643
5. Humboldt Sate 4-0 (8) - .636
6. Midwestern State 6-1 (7) - .627
7. Missouri Western 5-2 (4) - .610
8. Washburn 5-2 (10) - .605
9. West Texas A&M 5-2 (6) - .582
10. Central Washington 4-2 (12) - .582

Other LSC Schools
13. Northeastern State 4-2 (16) - .543
19. Southeastern Oklahoma 3-4 (22) - .467
22. Tarleton State 2-4 (24) - .464
23. Incarnate Word 2-4 (20) - .458
24. Angelo State 2-4 (21) - .455
25. Eastern New Mexico 2-4 (23) - .419
26. East Central 2-5 (28) - .416
27. Southwestern Oklahoma 1-6 (25) - .392
29. Central Oklahoma 2-5 (26) - .381
30. Texas A&M-Commerce 2-5 (27) - .369

Playoff Implications - Five LSC Schools are still in the hunt for the NCAA playoffs.  Abilene Christian, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Midwestern State are in our top 6 and would be in if the season ended today.  West Texas A&M is at number 9, but has games against Midwestern State and Abilene Christian coming up and could leapfrog some teams with wins in those games.  Northeastern State still has an outside chance, and has games coming up against Central Oklahoma, East Central, Eastern New Mexico and a tough closing game with Midwestern State.  Next week, we will handicap each team's playoff chances.

Last Weeks Games
Southeastern Oklahoma 56, Central Oklahoma 55
This was the game of the year for offense lovers.  The teams combined for 111 points and 1,062 yards on the day.  Baylen Laury led the Savage Storm with 198 yards rushing with 2 TDs and another 72 yards receiving.  Josh Birmingham led the Bronchos with 205 yards rushing with 3 TDs, and another 30 receiving yards and another TD.  UCO's Ethan Sharp had 242 yards and 4 TDs passing, but Logan Turner had 298 yards and 5 TDs for SOSU.  The Bronchos looked to have the game in hand, taking a 35-10 lead just 20 seconds into the second half, but SOSU scored the next 32 points over the next 13:20 to take a 42-35 lead.  The teams would eventually make it to OT, where a UCO failed PAT was the difference.

East Central 22, Eastern New Mexico 19
The Greyhounds' road struggles continued, as East Central took a close game in Ada.  Wesley Wood threw for 368 yards, but had 0 TDs and 3 interceptions and was sacked 7 times.  The Tiger offense gained 375 yards on the day, but did a better job of holding on to the ball, with just one turnover on the day.  Charles Opeseyitan topped the 100 yard mark rushing, and Tyler Vanderzee threw for 282 yards and 3 TDs (all to Chris Espinoza) on the day.

Tarleton State 34, Texas A&M-Commerce 31
For the second time this season, Nick Stephens led the Texans to a late comeback win.  Trailing by four with 2:39 to play, Stephens led Tarleton down the field, completing 6 of 8 passes for 84 yards and the game winning 21 yard TD pass to Saalim Hakim with 40 seconds to play.  Prior to that final drive, Stephens was just 11 of 25 for 196 yards.  Marcus Graham had a big day running the ball for the Lions, with 127 yards and a TD in a losing effort.

Northeastern State 20, Southwestern Oklahoma 10
The surprising Riverhawks continued their winning ways with a road win over Southwestern Oklahoma.  Josh Lewis led a strong running attack, picking up 137 of NSU's 229 rushing yards.  Kenny Davis didn't enjoy his best day, going just 11 of 25 for 107 yards, but he did have 2 TD passes, including a 14 yarder to Trey McVay with 1:11 to go, putting NSU up 20-3.

Abilene Christian 54, Incarnate Word 17
The Wildcats weren't about to overlook UIW, especially after the Cardinals took Midwestern State to overtime a few weeks back.  Mitchell Gale continues to put up big numbers, throwing for 379 yards and 5 TDs, with Raymond Radway and Edmund Gates each catching two.  The defense was equally impressive, allowing just two drives of more than 25 yards.

Midwestern State 35, Angelo State 21
Once again, Angelo State played a ranked team tough, and once again they came up short.  The Rams had four trips inside the MSU 20 yard line end with 0 points, compared to the Mustangs going 5-5 in the red zone.  That allowed the Mustangs to win by 14 despite being outgained 442-367 on the night.

Texas A&M-Kingsville 28, West Texas A&M 24
So far in 2010, our games of the year have lived up to the hype.  Midway through the second quarter, however, this game looked like a blowout in the making for the Buffs.  Taylor Harris hit Stephen Burton for a 20 yard TD pass with 8:19 to play in the half, giving WT a 24-6 lead.  At that point, Harris was 10-14 for 185 yards and 3 TDs.  That would be the end of the Buffalo offense for the night, as the Javelina defense held them to 3 first downs, 85 yards and 0 points for the remainder of the game.  The less hyped TAMK offense meanwhile, gained 503 yards on the night, and held the ball for almost 40 minutes.  They were able to do that in part because of the great job Kevin VanVoris did punting for WT.  On three straight possessions, he pinned TAMK inside their 10 yard line, but all three times the Javelinas put together long drives that ended with field goals.  Nate Poppell threw for 264 yards and 2 TDs, with Robert Armstrong catching 6 passes for 95 yards and 2 TDs.  Ryan Lincoln became the all-time leader in receptions for TAMK with 7 catches for 114 yards.

This Week's Games
East Central at Southeastern Oklahoma
The Savage Storm could easily be undefeated in the LSC North, having dropped games with NSU and TAMC by a combined 7 points.  They could just as easily be winless, having won their last two games in overtime.  East Central could also be 3-0 in the North, with just a 3 point loss at UCO.  This should be an interesting game - the Savage Storm have the better offense, but ECU has the better defense.  Homefield advantage should help SOSU take a close one - SOSU 31-28.

Central Oklahoma at Northeastern State
The Bronchos are averaging 39 points in their divisional games, but a defense that is giving up 44 has them with a 1-2 record right now.  Josh Birmingham has bee spectacular, leading the LSC with 128 yards per game rushing, 162 all-purpose yards, and 15 TDs.  The passing game has been hot and cold, with the Ethan Sharp throwing for 1,720 yards and 17 TDs, but also 11 interceptions.  The defense is second from the bottom in the LSC in yards and points allowed.  Meanwhile, NSU is in the drivers seat in the North without any true stars or headline grabbing stats - save one.  The Riverhawks are +6 in turnover margin for the year and in each divisional game were +2.  That should bode well for them this week, NSU 24-21.

Southwestern Oklahoma at Texas A&M-Commerce
On paper, this looks like a low scoring contest.  The Bulldogs are last in the LSC in scoring and yards gained, with TAMC 13th in scoring and 12th in yards gained.  The defenses are middle of the pack in yards allowed, but both have been put in bad positions with turnovers (each are -6 for the year).  SWO has played their best ball of the year over the past three weeks, while TAMC has just been inconsistent all year long.  Again, we'll go with homefield advantage, TAMC 24-21. 

#4 Abilene Christian at Eastern New Mexico
The Wildcats likely won't reach the #1 spot in the AFCA poll this season like last year, but there is little doubt that this year's team is the better squad.  The offense is averaging 455 yards and an LSC best 43.6 points per game.  Their season lows (31 twice and 34) in scoring were against top 10 teams.  The defense is giving up just 290 yards and 17 points per game, despite facing three top 10 teams.  The Greyhounds on the other hand have been wildly inconsistent offensively.  How else do you describe scoring 44 points against TAMC, then just 10 against SWO, followed up by 49 against UCO, then just 19 last week at ECU?  ACU wins this one and wins big - ACU 49-17.

#7 Texas A&M-Kingsville at Tarleton State
The Javelinas probably had this game circled on their calendar as a payback game, but with Tarleton's struggles this year, it's a game they need to not suffer a letdown.  If they can maintain last week's momentum, they should win this one easily, but they have started slowly the last three weeks, before hitting their stride in the second half.  That could play right into the Texans' hands.  Both of their wins this season have been fourth quarter comebacks.  Can they do again this week?  Not likely, the Javelinas won't let them stick around that closely.  TAMK 38-21.

Incarnate Word at Angelo State
A matchup of winless teams in LSC South play.  Incarnate Word has to be somewhat pleased with their results, taking MSU to overtime and garnering some respect from around the league.  Angelo State, on the other hand, cannot be happy, playing well enough to keep the games close, but making enough mistakes to fall just short.  They desperately need to win this week, and they will get their first divisional win of the year.  Look for another solid game from Neiswander and company, and ASU to win 42-21.

#13 Midwestern State at #17 West Texas A&M - Game of the Year Round Four
Is this a playoff game in October?  Possibly.  The Buffaloes have two losses and still have ACU in a couple of weeks.  The Mustangs have just one loss, but still have TAMK on November 6th, and thanks to their season opening opponent will have a disadvantage in strength of schedule when the regional rankings are calculated.

As usual, the teams feature great offenses.  WT is second in the LSC, scoring 41.7 points per game, with MSU right behind them a 39.  WT leads the LSC with 535 yards per game, with MSU again right behind them at 464.  The Mustangs lead the league in rushing, averaging 228 yards per game.   Marcus Mathis and Lester Bush lead a deep running corps.  The Buffaloes average 124 yards per game, with Kelvin Thompson and Tommy Hampton their top backs.  WT easily leads the LSC in passing, averaging 410 yards a game.  Taylor Harris throwing for 2,645 yards and 18 TDs, but 10 interceptions.  The trio of Tyson Williams, Stephen Burton and Brittan Golden get the bulk of the throws (112-1,743 and 14 TDs.  Midwestern State averages 236 yards per game, with Zack Eskridge throwing for 1,523 yards and 12 TDs with just 2 interceptions.  David Little has emerged as his top target, with 47 catches for 555 yards and 6 TDs.

The defenses have held their own as well.  Midwestern State is third in the LSC in both scoring (20 pts) and yards allowed (335 yds), while WT is fourth in scoring (22.7 pts) and yards (337 yds).  Both teams have been equally adept at stopping the run (MSU-114 yds, WT-118) and pass (WT-219, MSU-221).  The Buffs have sacked opposing QBs 19 times, while the Mustangs have 15.

For the fourth straight week, our top matchup looks to be very even.  With both teams so closely matched up, the key could be who minimizes mistakes.  Penalty-wise, that favors the Mustangs - the commit 8 penalties for 77.9 yards per game, while WT commits 11 per game for 98 yards.  Turnover-wise that favors the Mustangs as well - they are +6 in turnover margin, while WT is -6.  Based on that, we'll take MSU to win a close one - MSU 35-31.

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