Texas A&M-Kingsville at #24 Valdosta State
The last time we saw the Blazers, they were soundly whipping Angelo State in the Lone Star Football Festival. In that game, VSU put together scoring drives of 60, 71, 82, 64, 53, 53 and 80 yards with a balanced offensive attack (292 yds rushing, 228 passing). The defense did their part, giving up just 262 yards (40 rushing) and allowing only 13 first downs. It's been a similar story all season. VSU is putting up 478 yards offensively (222 rushing, 256 passing) and scoring 42 points per game. The defense is allowing just under 20 points per game and 337 yards (148 rushing, 189 passing). In their two losses, SVSU was able to take advantage of a turnover and put together 3 long scoring drives, and West Alabama was the beneficiary of 5 VSU turnovers and a strong running game. The Blazers have now won five straight, with just the North Alabama game closer than 18 points.
The Javelinas have a three game winning streak of their own working. A big factor over that stretch is the running game which has averaged 183 yards over that stretch. Last week, the offense was nicely balanced against Angelo State, rushing for 167 yards and passing for 216 with 3 TDs and 0 interceptions. They will be without Jonathan Woodson which will affect the kick return game more than the rushing game. As we mentioned the big number for TAMK is turnovers - they are negative 7 in their four losses, and plus 10 in their five wins.
Valdosta State currently holds the #3 spot in the Super Region 2 rankings, so they feel this is a must win game to ensure a spot in the playoffs. Throw in two extra days to prepare and no travel, and it looks like a Blazer win. VSU 38-17.
link to WATCH LIVE
West Alabama at Abilene Christian
UWA comes into this game with a 7-2 record (7-1 in D2 games) and #2 Super Region 2 ranking. Their lone loss was at home to Midwestern State back in early October. They led that game at the half, but were overrun in the second half, 28-3. Overall, their schedule has not been that strong, with games against Clark Atlanta, D3 Mississippi College, West Georgia, College of Faith (???), Shorter and Delta State making up the majority of their season. They are a run first team by more than a 2-1 margin in play calls, and they do run it well (234 yards per game) despite losing their top rusher midway through the season. The defense is giving up just 242 yards and 16 points per game.
The Wildcats ended a two-game skid - barely. They found themselves trailing Texas A&M-Commerce 17-3 midway through the third quarter, but reeled off 21 straight points (using good punt and kick returns and an 85 yard TD pass with 1:20 to play) to eke out the win. Mitchell Gale still has a chance to become the LSC's all-time leader in passing yards, but needs 596 yards in the next two weeks to overtake Billy Malone. While that is secondary to winning games, it's still a pretty big deal.
Next week, West Alabama faces North Alabama, which may still have a slim chance at the playoffs. That's one more incentive to win this one and not make next week a must-win. UWA 40-24.
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Incarnate Word at Angelo State
The Cardinals first half last week was one to forget, with the offense, defense and special teams all responsible for 31-3 deficit. The second half was better, but UIW never pulled to within 18 points. Angelo State had a much better opening half, taking a 14-13 lead with 0:46 to go in the half. But TAMK was able to score a TD with just 13 seconds to go and then added two more to lead by 20 with just over five minutes in the game.
For the season, UIW is 8th in offense (points and yards) and 7th in defense (points and yards). Angelo is a bit better on offense (6th in points, 5th in yards) and quite a bit better on defense (5th in points, 2nd in yards). Despite adding DI running back transfers, neither team has been effective in that category (119 ypg for ASU and 103 ypg for UIW). So it may be up to the QBs to move their teams, and neither Taylor Woods nor Michael Cochran were the starters when the season began. Woods has completed 58% of his passes for 592 yards with 3 TDs and 3 interceptions (106 QB rating), while Cochran has hit on 56% of his passes for 410 yards with 2 TDs and 1 interception (142 QB rating).
On paper, the Rams seem to have the edge, but a win by UIW would not be surprising. ASU in a close one at home, 21-17.
Texas A&M-Commerce at Eastern New Mexico
While MSU and WTAM battle for the top of the LSC, the Lions and Greyhounds will battle to stay out of the cellar, so don't be suprised if the intensity in this game is at a high level. Texas A&M-Commerce has won just once this year, but should have won the past two weeks against Angelo State and Abilene Christian. While the defense has not been stellar (31.5 points, 367 yards per game), it is the offense that has been the biggest problem from TAMC. The Lions are dead last in the LSC in scoring, yards gained and rushing, are 6th in passing yards. They have scored 20 points just once this season, and it took overtime for them to reach that level. Eastern New Mexico has not had any heartbreak losses, but have faded badly in the second half of their six losses, getting outscored by a 142-54 margin. For them, it is the defense that has been the problem - they are last in scoring, yards allowed, and rushing defense, and 8th in passing defense. The offense is 5th scoring, 6th in yards gained, 2nd in rushing and 8th in passing.
This is another tough one to pick, but playing at home, we'll give the edge to ENMU with an over/under of 4 on really weird plays at the Draw. Greyhounds win 24-17.
Tarleton State at North Alabama
Fifth-year senior, Jake Fenske, made his first career start a memorable one, throwing for 280 yards and 5 TDs to lead Tarleton to a 45-20 win at Incarnate Word last weekend. However, he did throw three interceptions, something the Texans cannot afford this week. It was definitely a positive for a Texan team that has been inconsistent throughout the 2012 season. The offense has been good overall (3rd in scoring, total offense, and rushing, 2nd in passing), scoring at least 20 points every game, and under 30 just three times. The defense has been up and down - giving up 17.5 points in their four wins, but 37 per game in their four losses.
North Alabama, while ranked 10th in Super Region 2 currently, have not shown much to indicate that they are a playoff-caliber team. They needed a failed 2 point conversion by Miles College in the season opener and a 93 yard interception return at Texas A&M-Kingsville (3 plays after a TAMK TD was nullified by a penalty) for two wins, while their other three wins were against 3-5 Delta State (8 points), first-year D2 Shorter, and NAIA Kentucky Christian. That's not to say they are not good, just that at this point it is hard to justify them as a playoff team. This game could help them make that argument, and, if they win, next week at West Alabama could be a huge game. They are a run-first team, picking up 210 yards a game and scoring 20 TDs on the ground, while passing for 134, with 4 TDs and 6 interceptions (104 QB rating). Teams have been able to run on the Lions (187 yds per game), but passing has been more difficult (173 yds, 112 QB rating). They lost their last two games, 21-24 to Valdosta State, and 23-38 to West Georgia.
This game will probably hinge on Tarleton's run defense (127 ypg) and passing offense. If they can slow down North Alabama's running game, and protect the ball when they are on offense, they could get a road win in Florence. In yet another close game, we'll take the Texans, 31-24.
LSC Game of the YearMidwestern State at West Texas A&M
The game we've been waiting for will have the stage to themselves as all other Saturday LSC games are afternoon contests. Since dropping their season openers, both teams have run the table to this point. They have needed to - with so many teams in Super Region Four, it is very possible that the loser of this game will not make the NCAA playoffs.
There's not a whole lot to uncover about these two teams. The top two teams in the LSC in scoring offense, total offense and scoring defense. WT leads the LSC in yards allowed, MSU is fifth. The Mustangs lead the LSC in rushing offense, WT in passing offense and run defense. In the red zone, MSU is tops on offense (WT is second) and WT is tops in red zone defense. The teams have faced six of the same opponents, with WT beating them all with a +159 point margin, MSU with an 81 point margin and a 5-1 record.
Midwestern State is a notch down from last year, still very good, but not quite the juggernaut. The running game is just as potent as last year, but Brandon Kelsey is not have the same success passing as he did last year (2010 - 1,951 yds passing, 17 TD, 9 Int, 158.7 QB rating, 2011- 1,050 yds, 6 TD, 7 Int, 118.4 QB rating). Keidrick Jackson has almost equalled last year's rushing output, and with 43 yards will surpass Dominic Rhodes in the second all-time spot for the Mustangs.
On the other hand, the Buffs are a step or two ahead of last year. Coming into the game, the defense is slightly better statistically than last year, and the offense is a bit more balanced and scoring 4 more points a game than in 2011. Dustin Vaughn is more efficient at QB, Khiry Robinson is having the best season at RB since Keithon Flemming in 2007, and there is more balance at the WR spot as well.
So who do we think will win? Given that MSU's offensive strength matches directly up with WT's defensive strength and WT's offensive strength matches up with MSU's defensive weakness (relatively speaking), and throw in the home field, and WT looks to pull this one out. Buffaloes win 35-24.