FINALLY!!!! West Texas A&M will officially kickoff the 2012 football season. Here's a look at week one games. For week one, we will focus more on the opponents, since they are non-conference opponents.
#24 West Texas A&M at #6 Colorado State Pueblo - These two teams squared off last year as well, with the Thunderwolves sneaking out of Canyon with a 26-24 win, despite being outgained by a 556-238 margin. The Buffaloes jumped out to a quick 10-0 in last year's game, only to see CSUP take advantage of turnovers and sloppy special teams play by WT to take the victory. Amazingly, CSUP is entering just it's fifth year of restarting their football program, with the team showing improvement every year (4-6, 7-4, 9-2, 11-1) qualifying for the playoffs last year as the top seed in their region. The Thunderwolves had four players selected to the RMAC preseason first team on offense and two on defense. CSUP was extremely balance on offense last year, rushing for 187 yards and passing for 182 yards per game. The defense was stingy, giving up 286 yards per game, 89 rushing and 197 passing, and just 10.3 points per game. The Buffs may have been looking past CSUP last year, but don't look for that to be the case this time around - Coach Carthel even closed the team's second scrimmage to the public. We look for WT to get off on the right foot this year, winning 35-24 on the road.
McMurry at #10 Abilene Christian - Crosstown matchup of Abilene universities, both of which made the playoffs last year (McMurry in D3, ACU in D2). The Warhawks left D3 on a strong note, finishing the year with a 9-3 record, beating UTSA in the Alamodome, making the playoffs, and winning their first NCAA playoff game before bowing out to perrennial powerhouse Mary Hardin Baylor. They like to pass the ball (346 yards per game) and have an experienced QB in Jake Mullin returning. However just two other offensive starters are back (former ACU OL Rafael Gallo is on the roster). Five starters return for the defense, led by DL Corey Hall (1st team ASC) and CB D. J. Baiza (2nd team). The defense did allow 153 yards rushing and 210 passing, with opponents scoring 28.2 points per game (23.1 taking out the SFA game). This an interesting matchup, that has been dormant for too long, and unfortunately looks to be a short term event. ACU should handle this matchup, but look for McMurry to move the ball pretty well. ACU 35-21.
Southeastern Oklahoma at Texas A&M-Commerce - These two teams used to battle it out for LSC North supremacy before the wheels fell off in 2010. For the Savage Storm, it has been a steady descent since 2004, when they finished 8-3 and made the NCAA playoffs for the only time. They continued to win games for a while (31-21 over the next five years) but have back to back seasons of 3-8 and 2-8. The offense was last in the GAC last year, scoring just 20.6 points per game, and 7th in yards gained with 347. Jercolby Bradley looks to start at QB. He threw for 247 yards in limited playing time, but has 5 of the top 6 receivers from last year throw to. Leading rusher CJ Kirk is back after rushing for 720 yards last fall, and he has four returning linemen with starting experience blocking for him. The defense was better, giving up 26 points and 383 yards per game and returns eight starters from last year. On paper, this looks like a defensive battle, where turnovers and special teams could have a huge impact. Lions open the season on a positive note, beating SOSU 17-10.
Eastern New Mexico at New Mexico Highlands - The Pokes got off to a quick 3-0 start last year before hitting a wall dropping their next seven games (4 by one score or less). They did close out the season knocking off #20 Colorado Mines on the road. They were picked sixth in the RMAC preseason poll, with Jordan Campbell selected as the preseason player of the year. The senior linebacker led the conference with 110 tackles and the nation with 28.5 TFL. NMHU was balanced on offense, rushing for 169 yards and passing for 178 per game. Defensively, they held opponents to just 100 yards rushing and 224 passing, but gave up 28.6 points per game. With a new coaching staff, we expect more balance from the Greyhounds and this will give us a glance at what to expect from ENMU the rest of the season. Playing at home and with more continuity from last year, NMHU takes a close one 21-17.
Central Washington at Texas A&M-Kingsville - Matchup of two teams that suffered disappointing seasons last year. TAMK stumbled through a 6-5 season and CWU fell to 4-6. The Javelinas took last year's season opener 21-10 in Ellensburg with Robert Armstrong scoring two TDs and Jeremy Aguilar leading the defense with 7 tackles and an interception with the Javelinas clinging to a 14-10 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats' offense was geared more to the pass last year, racking up 239 yards through the air and 123 rushing. Defensively, CWU gave up 244 passing yards 119 rushing and 25.2 points per game. Ryan Robertson returns at QB, and has all five starting lineman back as well. The defense returns just 3 starters. The Javelinas are at home and are looking to atone for last year's season performance. They have 25 seniors on the roster and know they cannot afford a slow start with the early schedule they have have this year (ACU, WTAM, and MSU the next three weeks). Javelinas pull away, 35-21.
Western State at Angelo State - Another rematch from last year, in which the Rams won comfortably, 35-12. ASU did it all - taking the opening kickoff back for a TD, rushing for 266 yards, 173 passing and holding WSC to just 186 yards. Western State won just one game last year, and are picked next to last in the RMAC, ahead of newcomer Black Hills State. Linebacker Jaden Terry is the lone representative on the preseason all RMAC team - he lead WSC with 94 tackles and 8 for losses. Overall the team rushed for just 67 yards per game and passed for 185, completing just 43% of their passes. The defense gave up 193 yards on the ground and 251 through the air. Look for a lopsided score as Angelo State wins 42-10.
Texas College at Incarnate Word - Texas College opened their season last weekend, dropping a 46-10 decision to the NAIA #6 ranked University of St. Francis. TC could muster just 179 yards offensively, while giving up 371. The score was just 23-10 in the fourth quarter, before getting broken open. A news article from Tyler indicated that several players, including QB Vince McNeil, are awaiting clearance from the NAIA. The Steers are coming off a winless 2011, with the closest games being a 14-29 loss at Langston and a 20-31 defeat to Southwest Assemblies of God at home. They averaged 135 yards on offense (77 rushing, 58 passing). The defense gave up 371 yards per game, (due to teams calling off the dogs) and allowed more than 40 points 7 times, with 29 points allowed being their best showing on the season. And this is just a one year dip - Texas College has just one win over the past three season. The DI-bound Cardinals should get off to a positive start, winning comfortably 35-10.